Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager – Chris Darwen

This is a write-up, in journal form, of Mansfield Town’s fictional 1999-2000 season, played out through the football simulator Championship Manager.

In order to appreciate this book, one must be a fan of the CM/FM series, especially the earlier versions. I cut my teeth on the 99/00, 00/01 and 01/02 versions of CM, so I took a particular interest in this book for the nostalgia trip. Therefore, similar CM/FM addicts will find this book worthwhile in some sense.

What is typical of a season summary in the CM universe is repetitive writing (game, incoming news, game, incoming news…). This can be overcome by providing the reader with a team to support and empathise with through the fleshing out of players’ personalities and elaborating upon results.

However, I could not identify with any of the players, simply because I didn’t know who they were. Most players were simply referred to by their nicknames (Chrissy G, Lins, Bowler, Clarkey…), and featured minimally outside of match play. Asides with staff members were a tad hackneyed, and the anecdotes with ‘Leathers’ were repetitive and unnecessary. Also, early pages had an overabundance of prophetic quips regarding some players (“Wenger has bought that French lad, Pires…doubt he’ll do anything over here” and “Graham Barrett. What a talent, if he doesn’t play 100 times for Ireland I know nothing”) that become tired.

All this contributes to the often uninspiring writing which is typified by the Mansfield Town chairman ‘Hazza’ frequently uttering “Absolutely delighted!” after a good win (CM fans will understand this reference, though it gets tiresome quickly).

Fans will, however, get something out of this. Cooper’s blokey, jocular voice is well suited to this story, and his love of Onesimo (a CM legend) will resonate with long-time CM addicts. Brief allusions to Cooper’s playing history with Wimbledon and Nottingham Forest allows him to name-drop some blasts from the past, proving his managerial bona fides. Finally, I felt a sense of vicarious satisfaction when Cooper’s scouts discovered an ‘excellent prospect’ in deep Scandinavia and South America; or when Cooper haggled with rival managers over the price of a Mansfield Town player.

This is a light and breezy read that won’t even take half a day to read. For avid CM/FM players only!

STARS: 1/5

FULL TIME SCORE: A dead-rubber 0-0 draw, both sides parking the bus.

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