Anyone who has played Championship Manager knows the story; there you are, sitting maybe third in your respective league. You’ve brought in a few players, you’ve got your formation set up to be as effective as it can be, hell you’ve even set each of your players’ training regimes to get the best out of them. And yet you’re still third, and whatever you try you just can’t push on. So you turn to the transfer market. You’ve got a promising set of kids in your youth and reserve teams so you don’t want to go nuts, maybe one or two who are going to add at that extra bit of quality. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, you see them and all that goes out of the window. There they are, a 19 year old undiscovered talent, probably from the Dutch second division or somewhere equally uninspiring, waiting for you to take them away to the big city in a blizzard of future potential and homoeroticism. So you sign them, you’re trousers rustling at the thought of their stats and the goals they’re going to bring to your team. You rip up your squad. Players are cast aside and the team is rebuilt around your new starlet, waiting for him to set the world on fire. We’ve all done it. For me, the game was CM 01/02, the team was Napoli, the year was 2032 and the player was Sebastien Lindholm.
To anyone who played Champ Manager 01/02 (and let’s be honest, we all did), you will know that Serie A was not a friendly place. This version of the game contained one of the most feared and well put together in Champ Manager history; Roma. With a lethal front line of an aging Batistuta (Battigol), a Francesco Totti about to hit his peak and a young Antonio Cassano, there were goals aplenty. Balancing that, the legendary Cafu and the beast that was Walter Samuel were busy helping the keeper Pellizoli catch up on his reading. Having inexplicably sacked Capello after winning the league in 2002, Fatih Terim was brought in to oversee a string of league titles, Champions leagues and the purchase of several other superstars; Robben, Rivaldo, Van der Vaart and Freddy Guarin were all signed as they completed a decade of domination. Having started out as Inter Milan, I was pummelled into a humbling 15 point distant 2nd place in my first season and, following a poor start to my second, got the sack after 18 months. Bitterly, the only option available was to take the manager’s job at a pre Abramovich Chelsea. From afar I watched as that team battered it’s way to 4 Champions League titles, 8 league titles on the spin, and countless World Club Cup victories. And soI waited. One day, I would return.
The great Roman empire was toppled in 2016; surprisingly by a Bologna side filled with aging stars picked up on short contracts and big wages. It was like Harry Redknapp had left the comfort of the south coast and moved to Italy. Back to back titles and a Champions League runner’s up place (losing to Real Madrid in the final) announced them on the world stage as the new kid in town. When they beat my Marseille team in the semi-finals of the Champions League the season after, their names were also added to the vendetta list. After 8 seasons and two league titles at Marseille, that loss marked the end of my time in France. Yet still I waited; I took over at Dortmund for 4 uneventful seasons trying to stave off relegation.
Then, in 2021, following an ignominious time at Blackburn Rovers where I narrowly avoided relegation, my stock had fallen so low that the only job available to me was with a Napoli side rooted to the bottom of Serie B and 5 points adrift. I struggled through that season, loss after loss, but eventually we managed to stay up by one point. I set about creating a team filled with young talent from across the globe; an 18 year old Russian Yuri Altonov signed from Galatasary’s reserves the focal point of my attack. Altonov scored 30 goals a season for the next 4 years and, with other signings brought into the first team, we reached Serie A in 2025. I set about building ‘the academy’; a youth team filled with the cream of the 16 year old respawns each year. Having cemented our place in the league, we steadily rose up the table and, by 2032, we had three Italian Cups to our name and a Champions League semi-final. But we were stagnating. Having reached the top four (Juventus had suffered a Portsmouth-like fall from grace and had been relegated) I couldn’t get any further. I turned to the transfer market. I had gone looking for Brian Liddington; a central defender currently playing for Leeds United when I accidentally clicked the ‘sort by value’ button by mistake. There he was – Sebastien Lindholm. Valued at £59k, I don’t know what made me click on him but I’m glad I did. Literally every single one of his stats and skills were either a 19 or a 20; about as good a player as I could have dreamed of. FC Copenhagen accepted a bid of £135k and he was a Napoli player, the number 44 (my lucky number) adorning his shirt.
Signed as a winger, I gave him a substitute appearance with twenty minutes to go against a struggling Siena team. He scored twice. Six goals in his next seven appearances were followed by a season ending injury, but I knew the time had come for redemption. Next season I promoted Julius Fabiano, a Brazilian defensive midfielder and 17 year old Italian striker Gianni Raspuccio to my first team. A change from the 4-2-3-1 formation that had served me so well to a more attacking 4-3-1-2, moving Lindholm from the left flank to playing in the hole behind the strikers lead to a 15 game winning streak, eventually culminating in 23 games unbeaten in all competitions. In a whirlwind of goals and assists, Lindholm almost single-handedly dragged my Napoli team to the league and cup double, netting 51 goals in the process. The further strengthening of my defence the season after lead to a Champions League final (narrowly beaten by Bayern) and eventually victory in Europe in 2035.
Lindholm scored a total of 239 goals in 5 years. Before the start of the 2038 season, I received an email. Real Madrid had put in a bid of £55 million for my talismanic midfielder. It was rejected out of hand. I then received a second email. Lindholm’s agent had told him of the bid, and he was furious that I hadn’t indulged it. As a naïve 17 year old, I thought that all life’s problems could be solved with money. An offer of increased wages was disgustedly thrown back at me and, a week later, I was told that Lindholm had gone AWOL and had no intention of returning to the club. Despite my best efforts to tempt him back, I had no option but to sell to Madrid. It broke my heart to do it, and in my head I was in the terraces with the fans booing and burning effigies.
In a twist of exquisite irony, we played Real Madrid in the Super Cup in the opening game of the season. In the 81st minute, Madrid brought on their new signing. Predictably, Lindholm scored the goal to cancel out my 2-1 lead and then, devastatingly, again in the 93rd minute to snatch the win. I smashed my keyboard. I punched the computer desk in rage and, as if it was the computer’s fault, I ripped the wires out the back of the PC. I then went for a cigarette in the garden to calm down. When I eventually got everything put back together I found, heartbreakingly, that I couldn’t get back in to my game. It kept closing, saying that the file had corrupted. I didn’t know domestic violence could do that to an electronic data file, but apparently it can. So there you are Sebastien Lindholm; I gave you everything, you broke my heart and, because of you, I killed 22 people. I hope you’re happy with yourself. The worst part is, my PC eventually died completely (in an unrelated incident I might add), so I lost all screenshots that I had saved of that incredible Napoli team. I’m sure one or two went on the internet at some point so if I ever find them I will attach them to this article. Until then, let this be a lesson about Championship Manager; just don’t ever play it. Ever. It’s really not good for you. You too will end up a murderer.
Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and writer. A fan of racing sims and first person shooters, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes.He's usually found in front of his Xbox or his laptop, follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 Gamertag: drewski060609