CM3 98/99 Season – The Treble Challenge | @Matt_C_Wills

When we first got a home PC (for A’ Level homework) in 1997 I played Premier Manager ’97 a lot. Then I picked up a copy of PC Gamer with a demo of CM9798 on it and I was hooked. So when CM3 came out a year later, I thought ‘This is the business’ upgraded graphics, more options, more leagues, we’re onto a winner here Rodney. 

Unfortunately my P166 was about as powerful as Del Boy’s three wheeled van by this point and struggled to run the game, so I stuck with CM9798. By the time my PC got upgraded it was 01/02 and then 03/04 where I undertook one save spanning 37 seasons of glory.

So anyway, I haven’t played CM3 for over 20 years, so, as a break from guiding AFC United to glory, I’ve been tasked with trying to emulate Man Utd’s treble season in Championship Manger 3. It’s been 20 years since I played this game and basically, have no idea what I’m doing. 

It all seems new and familiar at the same time. Like watching ‘Young persons guide to being a rock star’ and buying the accompanying album, then not thinking about it for 20 years.

First things first though, bring Peter back – not sure why he’s already at Sporting Lisbon, but I’m not playing Mark Bosnich.

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I go method acting on this. Same squad numbers, same friendlies (or near enough) as the 98/99 season.

The first thing I notice, is that players get injured – a lot!

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The second things I notice is Arsenal are pretty good

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Due to Arsenal being double holders, we have to negotiate the qualifying rounds of the Champions Cup. Red card, injury, penalty, lovely stuff.

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Oh look, another injury.

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Ok, so the challenge is still on track.

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Our group could have been worse. We’re not in Ekranas anymore Toto (Schillaci).

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20 years haven’t dimmed my tactical nous.

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We’ve turned a win into a draw here.

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And a loss into a draw.

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The group games get off to a stumble.

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Oh FFS. David May is going to get plenty of minutes this time around.

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Wimbledon are early pace setters. We’re drawing a lot of games.

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I’ve switched to 4-3-3 on the advice of Ross Bell.

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It seems to be working.

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Standard news update.

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Most games seem to involve a red card, a penalty and an injury. Irwin odds on to be top scorer at this rate.

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Half way there, wearing second hand underwear.

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Arsenal really are good in this version, no wonder they pushed Man Utd all the way.

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Europe seems more straight forward than the league.

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Squeezing through the League Cup. I don’t prefer a Fran.

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I winced seeing the Casiraghi injury flash up, considering what happened in real life.

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A third of the way through and we’ve drawn most of our games so far.

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We can win in Europe though, although seem to need a penalty early doors to get us going.

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Through with a game to spare. Upgrading to new underwear.

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I forgot this was the first version to introduce the Bosman rule. Oh well, not sure I will play into season two anyway.

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The reserves show me enough to know any more injuries and this challenge is going to fail. Life through a Lens indeed.

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Because of course it had to be Arsenal.

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Winning is hard work.

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Smash and grab at the Lane.

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Half way through though and we’re in the mix!

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A tweak to the 4-3-3 and we’re starting to kick into gear.

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I was starting to get frustrated with this version, but this result actually made me cheer out loud.

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This one had me swearing though. Giggs on the left of a front 3 works, anywhere else and he plays cack.

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Oh, this might help our Champions Cup campaign.

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If Giggs gets injured, we’re screwed.

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Then it all starts to unravel.

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That’s us out of the FA Cup then and we won’t complete the full challenge, but maybe a double is on? Oh.

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Wimbledon are plummeting.

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Two thirds of the season left and we’re there or there abouts.

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Arsenal, guided by Pat Rice, do us in.

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This will make Ross happier than me.

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We were due a decent result.

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That thrashing sets us up for Arsenal in Europe and we edge through on away goals.

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Arsenal take the League Cup.

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This is painful. We drew loads, then won loads, now seem to be losing loads.

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We fall to a Basque Boy.

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Coventry best us when I forget to put any outfield subs on the bench, compounded by a knackered and injured squad.

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I really don’t know how to get this team winning again, I’ve tried 4-3-3, 3-4-3 and 5-3-2.

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I think we should apply – it might be needed.

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A win like this is becoming rarer and rarer.

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This is getting depressing.

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Not a game for the neutrals.

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Well, to be fair, we deserved, and got, nothing.

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It’s going well!

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One game left and the best we can do is 4th, while Liverpool, Leeds and Aston Villa are all still in it.

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Vote of confidence.

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Protest of no confidence.

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It doesn’t end well.

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Liverpool took it in the end, we finished 6th.

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I was perplexed at not scoring many, but then I see that Liverpool won it by averaging just over a goal a game. We’re top scorers but also conceded the most on the top 12.

We topped the league after our slow start, but then the defeats came thick and fast and that was it for our challenge.

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So, 6th in the league, knocked out of the FA and Champions Cup and to cap it all, Cruyff is off to Ajax.

In Europe, Barcelona won the Champions Cup, Leverkusen the Uefa Cup and Chelsea beat Newcastle in the Cup Winners Cup.

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The biggest shock was Sunderland beating Wimbledon in the FA Cup final.

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So, what have I learnt from this exercise? Well 3 things really

  1. Scoring goals is not easy (unless it’s a penalty)
  2. So many injuries
  3. Man Utd’s strikers are quite shite on this version

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Challenge accepted and challenge failed.

So what are my second impressions of CM3 after 20 years. I like the interface, the choice of leagues look great, but I really am a novice at it. With CM9798 I know which players are needed to make a team tick, which formations suit my players and have enough ideas for saves to keep me going for a while longer yet. I tried CM03/04 in the summer but it seemed slow. This game rattles along, which is great, but it just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s the mechanics. CM9798 was the pinnacle of CM2 and 98/99 was the start of CM3 and the fact my favourite was 03/04 then 01/02 probably just shows you can’t always get things right first time.

However, I think the biggest thing I can say about it though is – how can I love a game with this version of David Brown?

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You can follow Matt on twitter: @Matt_C_Wills

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