End Evil

Championship Manager 00/01

Every football fan wonders at some point how they would do as a football manager and this is the best game to play if you want to find out. Many of us stuck with irritating or incompetent managers would love the chance to take over and lead the club to glory and in Champ Man you do exactly that (if you are good enough). You can select your team from a staggering fully playable 26 leagues including - Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, United States, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Wales.

This game has an enormous amount of features allowing you to sign, loan and sell players, sign and sack staff, choose from a wide range of formations and tactics, set training schedules and deal with the media, club board and the relevant Football Association. It is a complex game, which takes some time to get into, but as soon as you gain your first success it becomes addictive. The feeling of elation you get when at 3.30 in the morning you finally get Sheffield Wednesday back in the premiership, or return Celtic to glory with a European Cup win can only be surpassed by the real thing. However in order to achieve this you will need to build a quality team capable of consistently winning and strive to keep them happy. This is not easy.

When you have selected your team you will arrive at your main news screen which tells you essential news. The first message will let you know what the board expects of you if you are to keep your job, demands vary from the expectation of "great success in every area" down to the plea that you "battle bravely to steer clear of relegation". First of all you will want to check your current squad, you can do this by asking your coaches to submit reports on players and they will tell you if you should sell or if you have a tremendous talent who should be playing. Although this option is useful you may find that the coaches are not always right as each staff member also has their own unique abilities.

Having selected your first eleven and the potential weakspots you should choose your formation and preferred tactics, choose from the extensive list or make up your own. You decide who takes corners and freekicks and best of all who is going to be your creative playmaker. You will also have to set up the training schedules, each coach should be assigned to no more than three activities and players can go into general training or concentrate on a specific area, like shooting.

By now you will be desperate to hit the transfer market. First off you should set your scouts to search various countries or continents. The top right hand corner of the transfer screen will show you how much you have to spend. This game differs from the earlier versions in that your scouts are essential and players are more difficult to sign and require more complicated contracts. You will find that if a player is not unhappy or transfer listed you will probably have to pay well over the stated value to secure their services. You should compile a short list of top targets, which you will retain even after moving clubs, as this can be very useful. If you are unable to buy a player putting them on your shortlist will keep you informed if anyone makes a bid for them or if their contract is expiring and then you can snap them up for nothing.

Now you are ready for the first game and if there are none arranged you should go to fixtures and set up some pre-season friendlies which allow you to see how well the team is gelling and whether they are responding to your tactics. During games you can select from a variety of speeds and commentary flashes up to let you know what is going on, there are also a host of other statistics and options which would put Sky Sports to shame. If you start out badly don't give up, sometimes the team take a while to settle, sometimes a change of formation or a new player is needed and sometimes, unfortunately, they stubbornly refuse to play well and you have to try again. You may also have to deal with difficult players, watch out for Anelka, who complain about you to the press, you will have to choose whether to discipline them or not (be warned some players insist on being transfer listed if you fine them).

This version of Champ Man is undoubtedly the best and probably the closest most of us will get to actually being a manager, at least until the next version. The game is highly playable and enjoyable. Provided you like football persistence will reward you with hours of pleasure and with no need for fancy graphics. The level of detail is excellent with not only a comprehensive list of players with realistic abilities (updates of players and transfers can be downloaded for free from some gaming sites, start at Eidos) but also information about chairmen, staff and clubs. The Board also now recognise derby games and are that bit happier when you win them, they comment more in general than in earlier versions.

I should warn if you plan not to spend too much time on your computer then you should avoid this like the plague because once hooked you will play for hours and may begin confusing it with the real thing. If you are a football fanatic and suffering from the odd numbered summer syndrome, i.e. the lack of a tournament, instead of crying into your pint and desperately reading the transfer rumours buy this game and put all those drunken conversations into practice. As Alan Partridge would say it's like having football pie all down your shirt.

Review by Simon Hill

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