BY FEARGAL BRENNAN
As a computer game that helped to define a generation (or two) of football fans who sought something a little more mentally challenging to ruin their time off with, Championship Manager was a game changer.
Championship Manager, Champ Manager, Champ Man all entered into the lexicon of football fans that had become obsessed with the game with a wilful acceptance. Knowing looks would be exchanged over French U21 starlets and worried faces over star players with dreaded ‘UNH’ next to their name.
Championship Manager eventually created a splinter game, Football Manager, in 2003-04 – a source of real contention amongst some Championship Manager zealots. And the game began to successfully lure a new breed of teens/20s/30s/anyone slowly towards the inviting glow of their laptops.
Anyone who has played either of these games will know the desperation of searching in the free transfer sales bin, the pressure of begging a virtual chairman for money and the unrequited pleasure at unearthing a hidden talent.
1. MARK TYLER
Tyler is something of an anomaly amongst true Championship manager icons, in that he is both real and has remained in England for his whole career.
Tyler could be snapped up as a young keeper from Peterborough for under 500K, and he would become your No.1 in no time, winning medals galore.
Currently back at Peterborough, on loan from Luton Town, Tyler has clocked up just short of 700 professional games and has played for England at U20 level.
2. CHRISTOS PATSATZOGLOU
Greek international Patsatzoglou gets the nod at right back, as a thoroughbred Championship Manager legend. Not the best in terms of his stats, but always gave his all (I think), at a bargain price of around 750K and he could cut it in successful teams.
He has enjoyed a highly decorated career in Greece, winning eight League titles and one Cypriot one. He was also awarded Greek Young Player of the Year in 2000, around the time Jamie from Walsall was signing him for his UEFA Cup push with Aston Villa.
3. TARIBO WEST
A name synonymous with the game and with the alternative football world, West was seemingly always available on a free transfer, why nobody wanted him is mind boggling.
He would be one of the first signing to be made, and he was rock at the back, you could picture him as the life and soul of training while you sat their missing your fifth lecture that week.
West, and his selection of bizarre haircuts, has played across three continents before finishing his career in Iran in 2007.
4. MIKAEL ANTONSSON
Signing defender Mikael Antonsson would normally require a little bartering with IFK Goteborg, but eventually they would succumb to your advances. On most versions of the game his stats would not even appear, so a bid would require an extra bit of blind managerial faith.
He gave the image of calmness personified, oozing class and often eventually going on to be club captain.
5. HANNU TIHINEN
In its early noughties heyday, Championship Manager was a breeding ground for world beating Scandinavians, and Tihinen was a beast.
Offering the aggression and tenacity to match up with Antonsson’s calm, the Finnish defender was always a real bargain signing from Viking.
In the non-virtual world, Tihinen enjoyed a long playing career in Finland, Belgium and Switzerland, playing as Sami Hyypia’s long term defensive partner for the national team.
6. MARK KERR
Possibly the greatest and most fondly remembered Championship Manager icon was Falkirk midfielder Mark Kerr.
Kerr would be plucked from obscurity in Scotland and miraculously turned into one of the best midfielders in Europe, with the reality being far less glamorous for the journeyman Scot.
Kerr would generally enjoy a medal-laden career, dominating games in the San Siro and the Nou Camp, before being chased by Europe’s big guns.
7. STEFAN SELAKOVIC
Another player to add to the list of Scandinavians that formed the bedrock of many a Championship Manager side.
Usually signed up from Swedish side Halmstads or Heerenveen, Selakovic was a bit like a virtual Henrik Larsson, could play anywhere in attack and he scored vital goals.
A player known very well within Championship Manager geek circles, Selakovic enjoyed a underwhelming domestic career in Sweden and the Netherlands.
8. IBRAHIM SAID
Egyptian international Ibrahim Said was pure Championship Manager gold, he could play everywhere and had a warrior’s stamina.
Comfortable at centre back or defensive midfield, he would offer the perfect balance to the rampaging runs of Kerr.
Not adverse to even playing as an emergency striker, Said often popped up with vital goals. He once signed on loan at Everton but was famously dropped from the Toffees squad after dying his hair red before playing a derby game against Liverpool.
9. MAXIM TSIGALKO
Belarusian striker Tsigalko guaranteed goals, and a ridiculous amount of them. Like his teammates he could be signed for a pittance from Dinamo Minsk, and almost instantly he would become a ridiculously consistent goal machine.
His back story only adds weight to the argument that he could have become a legend, outside of the twelve inches of your laptop screen.
Three high scoring seasons in Belarus had tipped Tsigalko for big things, however, a persistent ankle injury forced him to retire in 2010, with stories of Championship Manager 01-02 editions being uninstalled and then reinstalled as a mark of respect by his devout fans.
10. JULIUS AGHAHOWA
Signing Aghahowa was often difficult, as Shakhtar Donetsk would often play hardball over his transfer, and a work permit could also be an issue.
Versatile, skilful and speedy; the Nigerian international could play wide or centrally in virtually any team he was signed for.
Aghahowa signed for Wigan in 2006 However, Latics fans never saw his famous somersault goal celebration, as he failed to score a single goal in eighteen disastrous months in Lancashire.
11. TO MADEIRA
To Madeira is the biggest example of Championship Manager nonsense and how football mad computer game programmers can create players from thin air.
Madeira began his ‘career’ at non-league Portuguese side Gouveia, before smashing goal records across Europe, his stats were simply unbelievable.
And that it was exactly what he was, a complete fabrication of the game’s makers, and the mention of his name can still cause misty eyes amongst grown men, still attached to their teenage years.
N.B. Kennedy Bakircioglu has not been left out for any other reason than I wanted to give others a chance. Mr. Bakircioglu is still a legend.
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