Championship Manager, Kindle Unlimited and a nostalgia trip

I only read cheap books on the kindle – those that look interesting and pop up on the regular kindle sales. I now have 100’s of books on the kindle – and growing at a much faster rate than I read. I’ve been reading mostly on the kindle this week as I somehow accidentally signed up to Kindle Unlimited – a Netflix style book rental service of (mostly terrible) books. I cancelled as soon as I saw the charge but it means I have 3 or 4 weeks of access to the 1000’s and 1000’s of (mostly terrible) books.

Given that this happened just as I started this blog, it made sense to investigate the Sports books available on Kindle Unlimited.  There are a few old classics that I read many years ago that turn up on best of lists – including the excellent Morbo – The Story of Spanish Football by Phil Ball and Tor! The Story of German Football by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger both of which I read not long after they came out in 2003. I even re-read Tor! shortly before going to the World Cup in Germany 2006 (supporting the Mighty Sparowhawks of Togo). I remember reading it an wondering if I could actually be any more of a nerd, though I’ve since topped this by spending most of a lads holiday in Thailand reading Inverting the Pyramid.  Also available is The Real Deal by Jimmy Burns – a re-branded slightly re-edited version of his decent “When Beckham Went to Spain”.

There seem to be a few other interesting books available that I haven’t read – Roger Kahn’s less famous baseball books, an interesting looking book on football in North Korea by Tim Hartley and a tennis book called The Courts of Babylon by Peter Bodo. The book that jumped out the most was Fall River Dreams by Bill Reynolds – a book that I haven’t read that is often compared to The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey which I love. So it looked like my Kindle Unlimited error would at least yield one new book I really wanted to read.

But, and its the reason I’ve struggled with library books, I hate feeling like I have to read a particular book right now or I won’t be able to read it next week/month – it makes me resent the book.  So…. given a turbulent week in work, I felt like pure escapism and I knew that I couldn’t resist The World According to Championship Manager 97/98 by David Black. I can’t imagine I would ever have paid the princely €2.99 normal asking price for this – but I couldn’t resist free access.  Championship Manager is/was a football management computer game. You pick a team, buy players, set formations, then watch as the computer tells you – in text form – how your team do in each game. Its football by spreadsheet.  I loved it when I was a kid. I was addicted to it. I still remember my best save games in more detail than almost anything else about my childhood.

Champ 97

I still played the newer versions when I travel with work – until I had to stop as I was staying up till 4 am to see if I could get Exeter to the Champions League.  I couldn’t get the mighty Grecians past second in the Premiership and Champions League semi-final so I took the challenge of combining the Chelsea job with taking Ireland to 2026 World Cup. (I retired on the spot the day Ireland lost 7 – 0 to England in the World Cup quarter final and haven’t played the game since).  But I’ll never love any game as much as I loved the 97/98 version – although 2001/02 is definitely the more popular retro version.

So rather than read a book I’ve been meaning to pick up, I used my unwanted free access to delve in to a pure nostalgia fest. The book is unquestionably objectively terrible – mostly recounting matches simulated in the authors computer as he attempts to win the World Cup with an England team led by Alan Shearer and Tony Adams.  I don’t really understand why the book exists, but I enjoyed it. The names, the transfers, the memories, the emotions. It only took about an hour to read and I consider it an hour well spent.

The really shameful behaviour is that I didn’t then start Fall River Dreams. No, I opted for The World According to Championship Manager 01/02 by David Black.  Just reread the review of the last book (paragraph above) to find out what this book was like – except this book had even worse editing. As in every tenth page has a sentence that makes no sense.  But again I enjoyed it – there is something wonderful about reliving a very important part of your childhood. I can name more SerieA and La Liga players from that era than I can today – despite still watching plenty of football.

Champ 01

While on the subject of where football management computer games and books crossover, a more polished, and more ambitious book on Football Manager (the rebanded name for Champ Manager) that I read a few years back was Football Manager Stole My Life by Iain Macintosh.  This book was at its best when telling the story of the development of the game, interviewing its Founding Fathers as well as some legendary players whose real life never quite lived up to their online avatars. Some parts of the book just don’t quite land- especially the fan fiction at the end. The stories of obsessive fans of the game felt familiar and had definitely heard them before – I’m proud to say I never put on a suit for a cup final but I did hold a daily press conference in my head on my walk to school everyday.

A major weakness is that book is not as good as the very enjoyable documentary – Football Manager: An Alternative Reality – which coves the same ground but in a more engaging manner. Ultimately it feels a bit like an opportunist stocking filler – a phrase which 100% describes the dreadful The Football Manager’s Guide to Football Management also by Mr. Macintosh – who is a  better journalist/podcaster than a book writer. Ostensibly a book that is meant to explore the Game (football) through the eyes of a game (Football Manager), it isn’t really a ‘Football Manager guide’ to anything. It’s a very English bloke’s guide to football management (in a blokey FHM lads mag style mannner) with a few references to Football Manager thrown in to convince suckers like me to ask my Mum for it for Christmas (at age 30 years and 4 months).

So the moral of the story is that the great football management simulation computer game book is yet to be written.  And don’t buy Kindle Unlimited.

FM stole my life

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