Ahead of Schedule (Everton 1999/2000 – Season 2)

4th July 2000

It is the first Summer of the new Millennium and Eminem is top of the UK Charts with The Real Slim Shady, a song that references Will Smith’s rap career, Christina Aguilera, The Bloodhound Gang, MTV and Britney Spears. There is probably no greater time capsule of a song for the late 90’s/ early 2000’s and more importantly it’s my fucking jam, so let’s just revel in that for a second before we have to start talking about ball kicking and what have you.

I wasn’t expecting the first season to go as well as it did. I was expecting we’d get a safe top half finish and a decent cup run and then aim for Europe this year. With our first piece of silverware in the bag and our place in the UEFA Cup secured though, we’re ahead of schedule and can really think about building some momentum towards the champions league places.

I’ve realised a couple of things playing this retro database: Firstly, whoever did the scouting for Champ Man back in the day was a generous type and dealt out 20 ratings like they were going out of fashion. Secondly, I’ve heard so many times that the standard of the Premier League is going down in recent years, but I genuinely think that it’s currently much, much higher than it was in 1999. To be fair, in my opinion the Premier League standard probably peaked in the mid to late noughties, so maybe both viewpoints are true. Nevertheless, there are quite a few teams in this division that we absolutely mullered last year and I think if we can add some more quality into our side, we can quite easily finish higher than 7th as long as we keep beating the teams we should be beating.

So before pre-season even started, I added more quality to our squad. The right wing was a bit of a tricky position for us last season, with Danny Cadamarteri, Joe Max Moore and Mustapha Riga all giving it a shot, but I wasn’t bowled over with any of them. I’ve decided to keep Moore and Cadamarteri around this season while Riga goes on loan to West Brom for regular game time, but my first choice winger will be this lad.

I felt a bit dirty signing Pablo Aimar. I’m well aware of how broken he used to be in the old Championship Manager games and so I obviously used to sign him every time. I didn’t want to use that kind of knowledge to get ahead in this save, but like every player I’ve found so far, my scouts recommended him to me! I didn’t seek him out… So I’m probably fine… Anyway, Pablo can’t play right wing at the minute, but we’ll soon fix that with some training and game time. He’s got all the attributes, he just needs to get used to it. At £1.6M, I’ve robbed River Plate blind.

I’ll be sticking primarily with the same 4-2-4 that served us so well last season and my first choice starting XI to begin with will be as follows:

Thomas Myhre is the natural choice for number 1 goalkeeper after a solid season, but he’s currently all mardy because I didn’t let him go to Chelsea for £4M, so he can sit and think about what he’s done for a bit. Czech international Petr Cech has all the potential in the World and will start the season for us if he looks ready during the friendlies. I’ll be letting England U21 keeper Steve Simonsen leave on loan and Paul Gerrard will stick around behind Myhre to be 3rd choice.

At right back, I’d really quite like an upgrade on Abel Xavier, but I’ve been searching since January and so far have come up blank. As it stands he’s still in, with David Weir his lanky understudy.

It’s probably as good a time as any to mention that club captain Dave Watson has retired. As predicted, I didn’t really play him much last season, as we had way too many options at centre back and they could all run the length of the penalty area within a lunar cycle. Last year’s starter Richard Gough is calling it a day at the end of this season and as he’s declining, I’ve decided to promote young Richard Dunne to the first team on the back of his successful loan spell at Sunderland. He’ll partner new club captain David Unsworth in the heart of our defence.

At left back, it’s a really close contest between Michael Ball and Rodolfo Arruabarrena, but the latter gets my vote. In all honesty they’ll probably share the position pretty evenly anyway.

In midfield we’re as we were with Gemmill and Collins. I’ve got an eye out for an upgrade on either of them, although Collins is the more pressing issue. He’s starting to decline at 32, whereas Scot’s got a few more good years in him yet. Don’t get me wrong though, these 2 were solid last season. It’s a shame they’re hovering around 30.

Pablo Aimar we’ve covered…

Nick Barmby’s still a fine choice on the left wing…………. Excellent, I knew I could count on you to remember.

And our front 2 remains Radzinski and Jeffers, with Super Kev rotating in often. Incidentally, it saddens me that Radzinski isn’t included in the face pack that comes with this database. He looked like a chinchilla with David Brent’s beard, it was remarkable.

I’m in the process of closing some more deals at the minute. As well as Myhre, Don Hutchison and Slavan Bilic both also confessed to me that they’d like to leave this Summer, which I didn’t really have a problem with. I was more annoyed about Don, as I’ve spent all year converting him from an attacking midfielder to a box to boxer, but Bilic seemed to cause some sort of defensive calamity every time he played, so good riddance.

I’m also trying to prise Giovanni van Bronckhorst away from Rangers while simultaneously not letting them sign my 15 year old left back Leighton Baines, but the likes of Milan, Liverpool and Real Madrid are also circling the Dutch international, so I don’t fancy my chances. An upgrade on Scot Gemmill would be nice if I can swing it, but if not, I’m perfectly happy to keep him in midfield.

I never mentioned the board’s expectations last year, so I’ll do it now. We were expected to play entertaining football, bring through youth players and finish in the top half of the league, which is pretty reasonable and which we did. This season however, we’ve really ramped up expectations. We’re expected to finish in the top 5 of the Prem, reach the quarter finals of both domestic cups and the semi final of the UEFA Cup. No pressure then.

It’s also worth mentioning before we move on that Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and Watford have been relegated from the Prem and have been replaced by Blackburn, Charlton and Manchester City from the First Division.

5th September 2000

We’ve had a pretty good start to the season. Not incredible, but not bad at all. We lost the Charity Shield to a late Ole Gunnar Solskjaer penalty but didn’t disgrace ourselves, before losing 3-2 again in our opening Premiership match, this time away at Arsenal (Who’s scheduling these fixtures, by the way?). We lead twice, got pegged back twice and let in a winner late on. Oh well. We’ve drawn twice against Blackburn and Villa, with Aimar opening his account for us in the former, annihilated Newcastle, scraped past Derby and beat Coventry comfortably. As I say, not incredible, but certainly no cause for alarm. I mean, we’re sitting 9th, which is way below our expected 5th place finish, but that’s probably fine. Right?

We’ve sent a lot of young lads out on loan since last we spoke and we did also manage to flog Hutchison and Bilic for £13M combined, which is a nice bit of business. In fact it covers the record-breaking signing I’ve brought in all the way from Italy.

Allowed to move after Milan secured my previous target, Gio Van Bronckhorst, Gennaro Gattuso will be an excellent addition to our midfield if I say so myself. He’s 22 and has so far struggled to break onto the International scene, but in fairness to the lad, I probably couldn’t break into a midfield containing Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Luigi Di Biagio and Antonio Conte either. He’s a definite upgrade on Scot Gemmill and is exactly the kind of injection of quality we need, as is my other new signing.

Juliano Belletti, while not an out and out upgrade on Abel Xavier, offers us something different. He’s more of an attacking full back, while Xavier is more defensive. I’ve gone for this sort of approach before, most notably for Angrense in FAJS, and I have to say I really enjoy having this sort of flexibility in defence. It’s similar to what we have in the left back position, where Michael Ball is an excellent defender, but Arruabarrena (That’s the first time I’ve been able to spell that without checking it) is better going forwards.

That’s it for now, see you in 2001.

1st January 2001

Alright, nobody panic.

We’ve had sort of the opposite first half of the season to what we had in 1999/2000, where we started strong but fell away coming up to Christmas. This time, we had a pretty janky start but we’ve absolutely torn up the Premier League for the last few months. Shout out to Blackburn by the way – Just up from the First Division and they’re already trying to challenge for another Premiership title.

Since we last spoke, we’ve lost to Liverpool, Charlton and Tottenham away and Manchester United at home in the Premiership. We also got dumped out of the League Cup at home by Leeds at the first time of asking, but to be fair I played the reserves as our first team was knackered from thrashing them in the league a few days prior. Apart from that, we’ve been rampant. I’ve especially enjoyed December, where we’ve won 7 out of our 7 league games, including a trip to Old Trafford. In terms of the UEFA Cup, I’ve been mainly using reserve teams as we continue to focus on the league, but they’ve been getting the job done. A 6-1 aggregate win over Hajduk Split, including a first club goal for young Rooney, saw us through the first round and a 3-1 aggregate win over Nantes took us through the second.

Speaking of Wazza, we managed to bring his attributes up a bit and his potential was up to 4.5 stars before he even turned 15, so that’s promising. I’ve been throwing him in where I’ve been able to to get some experience.

The goals have been absolutely flooding in and I think it’s due to a combination of our now mouth-watering strike force (And yes, I include David Unsworth in that) and the addition of Pablo Aimar, who’s already almost completely accustomed to life on the right wing and has laid on a staggering 17 goals for his peers.

Tomasz Radzinski’s leading the way in terms of goals, with Franny Jeffers not far behind. Again, Campbell and Unsworth are pulling their weight and even Nick Barmby’s form has been worthy of praise………

Speaking of Nicky, there’s rumours that Tottenham are interested in making a big money bid for him, so watch this space on that one. It’d actually be quite handy if he did go, because today his replacement arrived.

Yes, why bring in 1 young Argentine star who’s played in the hole his entire short career and force him to shunt uncomfortably out to the wing when you can bring in 2 young Argentine stars who’ve played in the hole their entire short careers and force them to shunt uncomfortably out to the wings? #WelcomeRiquelme is trending on Ceefax right now to the utter bamboozlement of the general public and I’m fucking jazzed. I’ve raided Boca for one of their prize assets and given them precisely £1.4M for the second time in a year and Arruabarrena and Riquelme will be linking up on my left flank soon enough. He’s not the quickest and he’s actually stronger with his right foot than his left, but he’ll still be great. I have faith. Once he and Aimar are both fluent English speakers and are fully comfortable in their new roles, I can’t see us ever getting outscored again.

In terms of what I’m looking for next in the transfer market, a replacement for John Collins is now top of the list. He and Danny Cadamarteri are out of contract at the end of the season and I’ve not decided what to do with them yet. For John’s replacement I want someone skilful, but who can hold their own in the centre of midfield. A set piece specialist is preferred. I’ve offered a contract to Hidetoshi Nakata, who’s on loan with Chelsea until his Perugia contract expires in the Summer. I think he could do the job, but no doubt Chelsea will also be interested and would have the advantage as he knows the club. We’ll see how this goes.

I’m also in talks to bring this young Colombian goalie in for about £150k compensation. He looks like he’s got potential.

Meanwhile, we’re having a weird surge in injuries suffered by our promising kids who are out on loan. Riga’s done his hip and is out for up to 6 months, Huysegems is 3 months into a 9 month ligament injury and Osman’s out for 3 months with a fractured leg. They’ll all be coming home for treatment now that we’ve reached January.

Oh and also, Ken Bates and his choice hat offered me an interview for the Chelsea job, but without that sweet Oligarch money, who the fuck are Chelsea, amirite?

See ya in a month.

3rd February 2001

I feel like I’m cheating. Am I cheating? You can be honest. I know it’s a thoroughly explored meme at this point that signing young Argentines for next to no money is the dominant FM strategy, but this database has ramped that up to 11. Some of the players I’ve signed are so good and have cost me so little that it’s starting to feel like the equivalent of playing Oddjob in Goldeneye or picking Kassadin in that one early League of Legends patch. I don’t know, maybe this is just what Champ Man was like back in the day. Anyway, we’re still p3wning the majority of these n00bs.

United probably have too much of an advantage already for us to seriously mount a title challenge, but I genuinely think that if we can continue our ridiculous upwards trajectory in terms of quality, we can win the league next year. Be pretty embarrassing if I finished 7th again now, wouldn’t it.

We’ve had a solid January, smashing Doncaster and Huddersfield in the FA Cup and fairly comfortably seeing off Wimbledon, brave Blackburn and Arsenal in the League. It might be time to stop playing the reserves in the UEFA Cup though, because I sent them out against Fiorentina and we just barely scraped a home win. Old Franjo forgot about the likes of Francesco Toldo, Rui Costa, Gabriel Batistuta and Enrico Chiesa didn’t he, the silly moo. Luckily Joe Max Moore bailed us out in injury time and he’s actually in great form, so after a year and a half, I’m finally going to show our ‘murican contingent some love. He’s a really solid and versatile attacking squad player and I like him a lot.

A few more deals have been done, with the young Colombian keeper Rivera on his way, along with his compatriot Fabián Zapata. You might ask why we need yet another promising right winger. I don’t really have a better answer than “He’s costing us pittance, leave me alone.”

Nakata also chose us over Chelsea, which is excellent as he’ll be slotting straight into our midfield next season. I’ve let a few players go, like young Nicky Chadwick, who was way down the pecking order of promising young strikers, and a load more players have gone on loan, like Thomas Myhre and Lee Carsley, who I no longer have need of.

I’m off to go complete the season. Fingers crossed for a strong finish.

6th February 2001

The very first thing that happened after I wrote that nice little bit about J-Max was Shenzen offering almost £7M for him, which is too good an offer to turn down. In a bit, Joe.

Alright, now I’m actually going to finish the season.

19th May 2001

Well that was a fucking slog.

So obviously it’s been a really good season, but my god we’ve had it rough these last few months. Probably due to a combination of our high intensity playing style and a congested fixture list, the second half of our 2000/2001 season was crushed under an avalanche of injuries. Don’t get me wrong, most of them were minor – A few days here, a couple of weeks there, but they’ve all added up and a lot of them have come before crucial games. Scot Gemmill in particular has been a huge miss as we’ve not had him since February. We dealt with all this at first as our good form had made morale sky high and that carried us through, but once we slipped, we collapsed.

Throughout February and March we were electric, seeing off Fiorentina and Lazio in the UEFA Cup, knocking Bournemouth and Man U out of the FA Cup and winning every single match in the Premier League. The only match we lost was away at Lazio in the second leg, when they thrashed my reserve team 5-2, but our 6-0 lead from the first leg carried us through. In a jam packed April though, the injuries started coming thick and fast. We lost to Leeds and Hamburg, surrendering 2nd place in the Premiership and sneaking through on away goals respectively, beat Derby and then with an FA Cup Semi against Liverpool looming, I played the kids against West Ham and they tonked us. Then Liverpool also tonked us. All in all, it wasn’t worth it. Coventry held us at home – 2 disallowed goals and a missed penalty denied us the chance to end our awful form there, but then we did manage to get past Leeds over 2 legs in the UEFA Cup Semis. By May we were entirely ravaged. No fitness, no cohesion, no form. We did manage to beat Liverpool at Goodison to secure 3rd place and finish our league fixtures on a high note, but then Vitesse crept past us in the UEFA Cup Final.

You may notice certain absentees from the lineup. Our Argentine trio of Arruabarrena, Aimar and Riquelme were bewilderingly called up to play some pre-Confederations-Cup-pissing-international-friendlies just before the Liverpool game, so they missed our last 2 pivotal matches. Cheers for that, FIFA. It was still a fairly even game in terms of chances on paper though and I don’t really think we deserved to be beaten, in normal time at least. Mind you, if it had gone to extra time one of our broken and beaten number may have died, so maybe it’s for the best. We finish the season having failed to add to our trophy cabinet, but at least we gave it a fucking good go.

So now I’ve got all my moaning out of the way, let’s look at the positives from a season which, if you’d offered it me a year ago, I would’ve bitten your hand off for. Positive number 1 – Tomasz Radzinski.

42 appearances, 36 goals, 8 assists. Tomasz Radzinski is the Polish/Canadian Terminator. Without his goals we’d probably be mid-table, but he’s almost single-handedly dragged us up to third. He certainly dragged us through to that cold shower of a UEFA Cup Final. Somehow, even considering our South American contingent, he’s turned out to be the best bit of business I’ve done so far. Weirdly though, with clubs like Barcelona, Chelsea, Atleti and Valencia circling, I’m considering letting him go if we get a silly-money bid. He’s 27 and I feel like in this database I could bring in someone just as good and younger for half of what he’d fetch. We’ll see. Jeffers also thumped in over 20 goals, although he suffered a drought towards the end of the season.

Positive number 2 – Pablo Aimar.

36 appearances, 6 goals, 25 assists. Pablo Aimar is the Argentinian… Who helps the Terminator? Does he have some kind of right hand man? I’ve never seen the films. Anyway, Aimar’s whoever that is. In an astonishing debut season, he’s become a natural right winger and put in some fantastic performances. He’s been our player of the season in my eyes. Below him, pretty much our entire team chipped in setting up goals, which was really pleasing, but special shout out to our left backs.

Positive number 3 – Our league position and general competence in competitions.

Runners up in the Charity Shield (Does that count?) and the UEFA Cup, Semi Finalists in the FA Cup and knocked out of the League Cup by Leeds, the 2nd best team in the country. Oh yeah, and we’ve qualified for the Champions League through our Premiership finish, outscoring every other team as we went. It has been a very good season, although annoyingly, just like last year, how we finished it has left a sour taste.

So… What now? I’ve got no more incoming transfers to tell you about, although I have decided to let Cadamarteri and Collins go. To tell you the truth though, I’m extremely excited to see where this Summer goes. We should have plenty of cash to splash and I want to keep this momentum going. More quality, more depth. We’re going to need it if we’re to seriously challenge on multiple fronts next season.

I do just want to finish on another update on Wazza actually. Over the space of a season he’s grown from a 3.5 star into a 5 star potential attacker and his attributes are now looking very good indeed. He’s not as strong or as tricky as his real life counterpart was at this point, but he’s turning into a player alright. Very promising.

Right, well that’s me done for another season. I don’t know about you, but I now cannot stop listening to Bloodhound Gang. While you’re all looking forward to the releases of Windows XP and the Nintendo Gamecube, I look forward to seeing you in 2001/2002.

Author: DOgames

Amateur Game Designer, Writer, Artist, Musician

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