Championship Manager 01/02: Part 6

Part 6 - The Business End

Fresh off the back of his League Cup win TheMorty entered the business end of the season.

A place in the FA Cup final and a Champions League spot were up for grabs. To get there he'd need to get one over on the best team in the league - Arsenal.

RED CARD! Mark Kerr is sent off.

How did I get here? 36 minutes into an FA Cup semi-final against the runaway leaders of the league and I’m down to 10-men with nearly an hour left to play! I was way out of my depth. Henry, Bergkamp and Ljungberg would no doubt tear me apart. I felt like I was no longer playing a football management simulator and instead was deep into The Evil Within or Dead Space. As I feared for my life with each kick of the ball, I’d see the on-screen commentary read “van Bronckhorst beats his man” and fall to pieces. I’d been cock-sure of late, experimenting with match tactics, formations and line-ups but within 36 minutes I’d become a nervous mess that was one flashing light away from a full-on breakdown.

Maybe it was a mistake getting back into this game and I should have just ended my play-through when lifting the League Cup. I’d become accustomed to the FM 2018 3D match engine, the mid-match team talks and the modern day Arsenal who get beaten by bloody everyone! Maybe I should just quit and imagine this never happened… end the review on part 5 and try and finally finish Mafia III…

A week ago everything had been rosy. I’d won the first ever piece of silverware in the clubs modern history and I was excited to load up the game and crack on with the rest of the season. I was eagerly anticipating taking on a Leeds United outfit who had arguably one of the best squads in the game. A young Harry Kewell and a prime Mark Viduka were fearsome, but little more than puppies in comparison to my strike force of Shearer and Madeira that would leave even Vinnie Jones filling his pants.

Squad vs Leeds (Home)

Formation: 4-1-3-2

Starting 11: Chiotis, Duff, Risp, Yepes, Crainey, Dyer, Kerr, Bakircioglu, Shearer ©, Kallstrom, Madeira.

Subs: Given, Solano, Selakovic, Barsom, West.

My confidence last week was at an all time high and beating Leeds was nothing more than a formality. 2 goals to the good before half time – we were strolling.

Yepes opened the scoring with a header from a Dyer cross and Madeira got in on the act just before the stroke of half time, finishing a neat 1-on-1. Even when Viduka reduced the deficit with a tap-in midway through the second half, Newcastle never looked like conceding another and it was another three points for the mags that would almost certainly confirm our Champions League place for next season. Stephen Crainey made his full debut and played a solid 7 rated game as the defence played a blinder in keeping the Whites’ attack firmly on a leash.

There was a slight piece of bad news after the game and it was on a personal note for my players with none of them making the official Team of the year. Shearer had made the bench but there was no place for Madeira (who had scored more goals than Henry this season) and there was no place for Kieron Dyer who had been fantastic all term. Instead it was the big clubs that dominated, with Aresnal and Manchester United taking over half of the starting berths between them.

While the omissions were frustrating, we had a more pressing matter at hand…

The last time Newcastle and Arsenal had met in the FA Cup was in May 1998, when both teams contested a fantastic final at the old Wembley stadium. Newcastle were unlucky in that game, having more possession and hitting the woodwork twice, but Arsenal’s class shone through and after a Marc Overmars opener, Nicolas Anelka sealed the win finishing well past Shay Given.

Now CM0102 is renowned for many of the great players in its database and Nicolas Anelka is undoubtedly the most infamous player in the game. He can be playing the best football of his career, scoring goals for fun and playing 90mins every week – but will always find something to be unhappy with:

If you’re not top of the league - “Worries that the club’s poor league position will affect his reputation”

Lose 2 games in a row - “Has lost confidence in his managers ability”

As soon as ANY club on the game is interested in him – “wants to be transfer listed”

If you transfer list ANY of his team mates – “Believes the manager’s treatment of players is affecting the team morale”

Drop him at any point – “Unhappy with his manager”

Playing well and scoring goals for fun? – “is having trouble motivating himself”

Sign ANY striker, regardless of their ability – “Worried about his future at the club”

To be fair to Sports Interactive, they got this one pretty much spot on. Anelka played for 12 different clubs in his 19-year playing career and had a reputation of being a trouble maker. So even if he comes available on the game - sign this player at your peril!

You could say Newcastle had some unfinished FA Cup business with Arsenal and even though Anelka had moved on to PSG, the remaining French contingent were just as dangerous. I approached the game with a level of nervousness. Sure, I’d beaten Man Utd to lift the League Cup but I felt lucky. Manchester United a man down for an hour certainly helped me and I’d wondered if I’d have taken to trophy over an evenly matched 90mins. I needed some redemption and an unlikely win against Arsenal might just be it.