Championship Manager 2000/2001

Championship Manager 2000/2001 is a foray into world football of such encyclopaedic proportions that it’s guaranteed to leave John Motson adjusting his pants in over-excitement. CM 00/01 is not a major reworking of last year’s 99/00 version – because there wasn’t much that needed doing. What this update does offer is more of the same.

There are now ten extra leagues, including those based in Wales, Ireland, and Australia. You can also manage a team in each of the 26 leagues simultaneously – but if you do, don’t expect to see your loved ones again. Donning the sheepskin coat at just one club is challenge enough, because to be a successful gaffer, you have to be a master of tactics, psychology, finances and diplomacy.

CM 00/01 is as close as you’ll get to football management, bar taking up a seat in the dug-out. As well as extra leagues, there are now more than 50,000 players, coaches and managers – all researched with Gestapo-like thoroughness. A special Data Editor – available online from Feral Interactive – allows users to edit the database to keep it up-to-date. It’s now also possible to play random leagues peopled with computer-generated players.

The game’s comprehensiveness is beyond question, and 00/01’s improved Transfers functionality means you can scour any team anywhere for bargain buys. After hours of scouting, I was able to add to my squad at Wycombe Wanderers without the chairman running to the press with messages of “support”. For example, Wayne Dyer – a 22-year-old ex-Stevenage midfielder playing for Montserrat – was a snip at £25,000. Thing is, when his pay demands spiralled, I had to let him go. It’s this attention to detail that makes CM so involving.

Bootroom basics

Before a ball is even booted in anger, there’s the pre-season preparation to consider. Off the pitch, CM 00/01 is more controllable than ever, because you can now interact with the bootroom boys. To help with team selection, go to the physio, coach and assistant manager for up-to-the-minute reports on any player. You can also relieve your assistant of his reserve-squad duties, as well as promote reserve team players to the senior squad.

Player profiles are much more detailed, providing a breakdown of their skill at all aspects of the game, as well as ratings on how fit and happy they are. This is invaluable when making team and tactics decisions from game to game. If, for example, your opposition is playing with attacking wing backs, you can choose two wide men with big engines and an extra yard of space in their heads. Likewise, if the game looks like it’ll be a midfield tussle, then turn to the player profiles to shore-up your centre with a couple of piano carriers.

There’s no doubting that picking up pots is more difficult in CM 00/01 – unless you start with the top Premiership sides. It was only after much man-management, transfer wheeler-dealing and tactical tinkering that I managed to wring some results from my squad of journeymen and hungry youngsters. As if this isn’t tough enough, you also now face a baying media pack – including hacks from football Web sites. But watch your mouth – as one word out of place can mean headlines that irk fan and player alike. This is a nice touch. On the pitch, gameplay is better, with more-detailed match commentary. During crunch clashes, things can get really tense.

However, the game could do with a real-life Motty to replace the Stephen Hawkins drone of whichever Mac OS voice you have selected. There are other niggles, too. One is the PDF-only manual – which explains what everything does, but without saying where anything is. Because the interface is unintuitive, this will doom newcomers to hours of familiarization before donning the tracksuit. The delay between games is also frustrating, with screens of meaningless results keeping you from the action.

OUR VERDICT

For £24.99 you wouldn’t expect a football-management game to spank a donkey’s arse with a banjo. Not only does it spank said rear, but 00/01 leaves the mule braying in pain.

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