In a slight twist to this edition of APMFVGFH, we take a look at one of everyone’s favourite football games, the godly Championship Manager 01/02. But it gets even twistier as here we have a save game from the distant, dystopian hell-age of 2027.
This particular game, or rather career, started hilariously. I took over the reigns of Dover to begin with and within two seasons had them finishing 21st in the Conference, meaning relegation. But I was then somehow hired by by Dagenham and Redbridge who, to my surprise and delighted, had actually been promoted to the Football League. This of course was insanely undeserved and the people of Dover were not too pleased with the whole situation as I shrugged and legged it, leaving their club to die.
We’re going to take a look at who’s been winning some of the more interesting leagues and competitions up to 2027, but first briefly a stop back in the hazy, distant, vague past of 2012 and this fantastic anomalous, asymmetrical Northern Ireland formation that does not feature anyone on the left of midfield which makes my heart sing. The team had made the quarter finals of both the 2008 Euros and 2010 World Cup but after one more World Cup group stage appearance in 2014, their stock seemed to dry up.
Now to the leagues and first to Spain. Unsurprisingly Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate…
…until the duopoly is broken for an interesting few years in 2016 onwards by Levante, Recreativo and deservedly Malaga who had finished 2nd for three of the previous four seasons. After this it was back to the big two again:
Grim. In the Netherlands the situation was even more grim with PSV Eindhoven running roughshod, aside from an isolated title win here and there from Ajax and Feyenoord:
But eventually the tables are turned on PSV as Feyenoord emerge as the new top dogs securing an incredible 10 league titles in 11 years. After finishing runners up nine times in the preceding years, this must have been a bitter sweet period of success as it would have gotten quite boring after a while and made their supporters question what was the point in even supporting a team if they were just going to go ahead and win all the time. Aside from the big three, Utrecht, De Graafschap and Vitesse also provided some unexpected but ultimately unfruitful, token challenges:
In England, a similar situation seemed to be developing as Manchester United also scooped 10 championships in 11 years. Arsenal were their main titles rivals during this time and were the team to finally end 5-in-a-row title win streaks in both in 2004 and 2010, but it would be the Leeds who would emerge to take the next three.
Another hat-trick of league wins was to come next, this time from Wolves, but the era of single teams dominating for years suddenly ends here. Perhaps this was due to some sort of economic collapse and/or disease outbreak. Man Utd and Leeds disappear as title contenders, as do Arsenal apart from a brief flirtation back at the top with a title win in 2020. After Wolves period of success, the league is blown wide open with clubs now finding it impossible to win two or more in a row. The supporters of Ipswich, Coventry, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, and Crystal Palace will have no doubt moaned bitterly about this only 12 months after celebrating manically as their sides took up unexpected league wins. And as of the “present day” you will see that a Dag&Red side, amazingly still managed by an apparently ageless yours truly 25 years after being hired, has risen up the ranks from Conference wastemen to lords of the manor.
We now jump across to Italy and Roma were able to take 6 league titles in a row, with the runners-up of the latter four being their fierce rivals Lazio. But the next four years would see Lazio take the scudeto and revenge over Roma who would be runners up for the first three of these. But again they would come back and pip Lazio in 2011 before another Lazio win in 2012 to finish off a crazy era. The following season saw Juventus finally became the first side from outside the capital to pick up a championship in 13 years.
Inter, Parma, Fiorentina and Napoli would steal championships in the following seasons, while the aforementioned three also remained strong. What is most noteworthy from these later years is that Parma could just never again capture the form that led to their title win and went through an agonising period of 7 second place finishes in 9 years.
The European Championships would see a couple of somewhat surprise runners-ups, first with Turkey suffering defeat to Italy in 2004, followed in 2008 by what must have been a tasty affair as Ireland were beaten by England in Scotland. France and the Netherlands would trade championships and 2nd place for the next two tournaments before Sweden would emerge as back to back winners, somewhat reliving their national golden age of 1611-1648 (in war and such, this was before football).
The Swedes though could not translate this form to the global stage. The World Cup would become as boring as most leagues as 2014 saw France claim their fifth bloody title in a row, and would return to champion status in the latest edition after a restbite period which saw first Argentina as champions, and then, delightfully, Croatia. Also worth mentioning that Canada as World Cup 2018 hosts was a selection which took many observers by surprise.
Well that about covers it. To be fair when I said we would be looking at some interesting leagues earlier, it probably would have been more accurate if I had said “some very lopsided and boring one horse (or two horse or three horse) leagues in a theoretical video game universe which is utterly pointless except to point out that the game mechanics may have been slightly flawed when played out over a long period of time”. But then again that exact statement can also be applied to the actual “reality” that we are living in right now, so I don’t know.
Before signing out for this longer than usual APMFVGFH, I am happy to let you know that Dag&Red still sit proudly atop the Premier League and yours truly has just received yet another accolade, hopefully en route to picking up a second league title in a row.
But my greatest accomplishment had come the season before as I guided the team to victory in what was undoubtedly the greatest UEFA Cup Final the world would ever know, beating Gillingham:
(To be honest it’s been a couple years since I played this save and don’t remember alot about it, apart from A: That it was the first time ever playing a Championship Manager or Football Manager that I actually really looked up the best ways to do tactics and training and such after having been infamously bad for years at these games. And B: I was playing just before, during and after a break up and may have been using my career as a coping mechanism which probably explains my long tenure. Surely not the first or last to use football to stave off existential dread.)