Replaying Championship Manager: The Best Football Management Sim - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Replaying Championship Manager: The Best Football Management Sim

Christopher Morley tries his hand at football management... via a PC or console that is....

Aptly enough, given that 1992 saw the start of the rapid ascent of the Premier League as the summit of English football, the year of its formation served as fertile turf around which game developers could really start to bring the experience of football management to those who wanted to try it out - minus at least a decent enough playing career and a good few coaching badges.

Perhaps the most loved football management sim of them all is Championship Manager. Considered by many to be one of the best sports games released, it was developed by Everton-supporting brothers Oliver & Paul Collyer after having founded Sports Interactive from their bedroom in Shropshire. The brothers told their local paper that the origins of what would become the football management sim of choice began via a BBC Micro back in 1983. They said that they used their radio to listen to the football results and put them into the computer, which was their first step into programming. Thankfully they shared their skills with the rest of the world when Championship Manager was first released for the Amiga & Atari ST in September 1992, and then ported to MS-DOS shortly after.

Championship Manager featured every division, at least in old money, from One to Four, with the Premier League itself not coming into play until the 93/94 version. It also spawned international equivalents as the game's engine was subsequently used by Ubisoft to develop a version for French fans dubbed Guy Roux Manager, after the then Auxerre boss, allowing for Ligues 1 & 2 to become playable for those on the other side of the Channel. This was then quickly followed by Championship Manager Italia which also made use of the parent game's 93/94 nuts & bolts to fashion an equivalent for devotees of Serie A & B.

It wasn't until the release of Championship Manager 2, though, that we got several of the features we now associate with the golden age of the football management sim and it started to really gain respect among sports game fans. In this version, the standard scrolling text updates could be accompanied by optional audio commentary provided by Clive Tyldesley, whose dulcet tones can still be heard during ITV broadcasts of England matches. A greater variety of playable leagues was probably the clincher in sealing Championship Manager's legacy among the best, though, as now those north of the border could step into the Scottish dugout of their choice, with Spain's La Liga, Holland's Eredivisie & Germany's Bundesliga also added in for the first time.

Championship Manager 96/97 was arguably where things got real. As well as reflecting rule changes across the board, including a greater complement of substitutes in the Premier League, upped to five, the Bosman ruling came into force. In effect it legalised the free transfer, and is so named thanks to Jean-Marc Bosman, a Belgian midfielder who successfully challenged his club RFC Liege's right to receive a transfer fee for him after his contract had ended.

This version of Championship Manager also included a nifty little hack which became widely spread throughout the gaming publications of the day. Rather than working up the ranks, you could cheat your way into coaching the national team of your choice simply by entering the name of the current manager of the country of your choice as your own. So, entering Glenn Hoddle, say, as your own moniker meant you could manage England straight away without having to literally make a name for yourself at club level.

Championship Manager 97/98 went even further and was the first to include a data editor plus a greater number of playable leagues, now upped to nine which was three times as many as previously available. The scouting side of player recruitment and changing face of the wider football media were expanded upon in time for 1999's Championship Manager 3, as was the general player & staff database, with well over 25,000 playing & non playing personnel available to cast your eye over!

Championship Manager 4 broke records upon its release on March 28th 2003, becoming the then fastest selling PC game on its first day of release. Like many teams fast out of the traps on a Saturday afternoon, though, the momentum couldn't last and Season 03/04 was the last entry in a series which had rapidly picked up a massive following.

After parting ways with Eidos Interactive, the Collyer brothers regrouped for a spiritual continuation in the form of Football Manager. Sega stepped into the publishing void in 2005 and gave the Collyers a second wind, allowing them to carry on reflecting the ever changing business of running on-pitch affairs with a new matchday game engine, increased input from coaching staff and the chance to indulge in press conference style mind games with fellow gaffers.

The series itself continues with Football Manager 2020, arriving a decade after the Collyers were jointly awarded the MBE for their services to video games. And just like the thousands of people who have enjoyed Championship Manager across the years, the brothers equally enjoyed a game themselves. Paul recalled his favourite memory which saw him completely transforming Burnley's fortunes for the 93/94 season.
“After 10 games, I was bottom of the division, couldn't get a win or buy a goal. Then I set the team up to be really negative to get a bunch of draws and finished mid table. The next season the team got promoted. I then got them all the way to the top division."
And it's because the game always strived to be so true to real-life football management that so many people still rate Championship Manager as the best management sim of its kind.

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