Ay Up, Me Champions League Duck! #1

My attention span for Championship Manager 01/02 is generally short. I’ll get obsessed with a save for a period of time before it either dies or my motivation withers. It’s why I’ve yet to finish my Notts County save or my (second) Inter Leipzig save. So with that in mind, I decided to play again but with one goal and five seasons to complete it. If the first run worked, I’d do another one. No more Moneyball or silly rules about who to sign and who not to sign (Spanish, Brazil, Dutch, and English players are NOT overrated!!!) but I did have a few guidelines to improve its longevity:

  1. Only one nation’s league(s) will be run per save.
  2. One goal per save – any deviation from that goal or additional achievements will not count.
  3. The goal must be achieved in five seasons or less otherwise it will be classed as a failure.
  4. The 3.9.68 and Tapani patches will be used alongside the original database
  5. “Cheat” players can be signed except for Maxim Tsigalko

For this challenge, my goal was to win the Champions League at least once with Nottingham Forest. Not an easy feat considering they start 01/02 in the old First Division and it would take a minimum of 2 seasons to get into the CL (providing I got promoted and finished in the top 4 in my first two seasons). But it wouldn’t be a challenge if it wasn’t… challenging.

Anyway, here’s the team I inherited.

 Nottingham Forest - Saturday 14th July 2001


No  Name                       Position(s)  Nat  Born      Age  Caps Gls  Wages     Expires   Value
16  Bopp, Eugen                M RC         GER  5.9.83    17   -    -    £5.25K    7.8.06    £550K     
3   Brennan, Jim               D/DM L       CAN  8.5.77    24   25   2    £800      1.6.04    £775K     
18  Cash, Brian                M RL         IRL  24.11.82  18   -    -    £3.8K     7.8.04    £300K     
17  Dawson, Michael            D RC         ENG  18.11.83  17   -    -    £180      30.6.07   £95K      
14  Doig, Christopher          D LC         SCO  13.2.81   20   -    -    £425      30.6.03   £80K      
33  Edwards, Christian         D C          WAL  23.11.75  25   1    -    £3.7K     30.6.04   £1.1M     
31  Formann, Pascal            GK           GER  16.11.82  18   -    -    £180      7.8.05    £45K      
30  Foy, Keith                 D L          IRL  30.12.81  19   -    -    £3.3K     30.6.03   £250K     
26  Groves, Tom                M C          ENG  23.5.86   15   -    -    £350      4.6.03    £30K      
13  Harewood, Marlon           F RLC        ENG  25.8.79   21   -    -    £3K       30.6.06   £1.2M     
5   Hjelde, Jon Olav           D RC         NOR  30.7.72   28   -    -    £9.25K    30.6.03   £900K     
11  Jess, Eoin                 AM/F C       SCO  13.12.70  30   18   2    £5K       4.6.04    £1.6M     
9   Johnson, David             S C          ENG  15.8.76   24   -    -    £7.5K     30.6.04   £2.7M     
10  Lester, Jack               S C          ENG  8.10.75   25   -    -    £5.25K    30.6.03   £675K     
2   Louis-Jean, Mathieu        D R          FRA  22.2.76   25   -    -    £8.25K    31.7.03   £850K     
21  Pemberton, John            D C          ENG  18.11.64  36   -    -    £2.3K     15.6.06   £45K      
7   Prutton, David             D/DM RC      ENG  12.9.81   19   -    -    £2K       30.6.03   £1.1M     
20  Reid, Andy                 F LC         IRL  29.7.82   18   -    -    £7.75K    30.6.03   £825K     
12  Roche, Barry               GK           IRL  6.4.82    19   -    -    £2.4K     30.6.02   £150K     
6   Scimeca, Riccy             D/DM C       ENG  13.6.75   26   -    -    £2.5K     20.7.03   £1.1M     
15  Thompson, John             D/DM RC      IRL  12.10.81  19   -    -    £1.4K     19.7.04   £425K     
32  Vaughan, Tony              D LC         ENG  11.10.75  25   -    -    £7.5K     1.7.03    £725K     
4   Walker, Des                D C          ENG  26.11.65  35   59   -    £4.6K     30.6.03   £100K     
1   Ward, Darren               GK           WAL  11.5.74   27   1    -    £8.75K    30.6.05   £1.7M     
19  Westcarr, Craig            AM/F R       ENG  29.1.85   16   -    -    £2.9K     30.6.04   £325K     
8   Williams, Gareth           M C          SCO  16.12.81  19   1    -    £300      30.6.06   £1M       

The League

Nottingham Forest at the top of the old First Division with 107 points

The first few months were a breeze as we went 16 games unbeaten with a 100% record. But a string of 5 matches without a win cut our lead down to 6 points at the top of the table and I was this close to rage quitting (yes, I still get that annoyed so sue me). But a good night’s sleep gave me clarity and I continued and we won the title with 4 matches spare.

The Cups

Even though there’s only one cup we’re aiming for specifically for this challenge, you’re gonna want to stick around for this.

The League Cup campaign stopped at the 4th Round after wins against Colchester (2-1), Portsmouth (2-1) and Chelsea. Yes, 2001/02 Chelsea. And it wasn’t a last-gasp win either…

Nottingham Forest 4-0 Chelsea

Four. Nil. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That emphatic win earnt us a tie with Newcastle but we weren’t able to repeat our heroics and bowed out of the competition in a 2-1 defeat that saw Shearer score twice in a minute before half time.

The FA Cup started inauspiciously in the 3rd Round against Plymouth. After going 2-0 within 31 minutes, Plymouth grabbed two back in 42 and 66 minutes and forced us a replay back at the City Ground. Fortunately, we found our resolve and routed The Pilgrims 6-1; David Johnson grabbed a hat-trick in the process. The 4th Round was against our title rivals Ipswich and another draw beckoned. This time it was 3-3. Having gone 2-1 up, Ipswich flipped it 3-2 and a 84th minute equaliser from Michael Dunwell took us to a second consecutive replay. Again, the replay was at home and it was another comprehensive win, this time 3-0. Our reward was a home tie with Derby County. Things went badly when Malcolm Christie made it 2-0 after 45 and 55 minutes but goals from Dunwell (69, nice!) and 17-year-old Haci Aslan (81) took us to another replay. This time, we were away but a brace from Dunwell booked our place in the Quarter Final against Birmingham. Let me skip to the part where were drew (0-0 this time) and had our fourth replay in a row and won 4-2. The FA Cup was starting to feel like a two-legged tournament. Our semi-final was against Chelsea, the team we destroyed in the League Cup. By now, they were 9th but I wasn’t expecting lightning to strike twice. Aslan had other ideas, though, when scored from a rebound after 15 minutes. Chelsea’s shots were mostly wayward (they ended the match with 4 shots on target out of 11) and we punished them for it. 4 minutes later, Gareth Williams headed home to make it 2-0 and when the whistle blew, the realisation kicked in: we were in the FA Cup final for the first time in 11 years. Interestingly, the 1991 team had a few replays on their run to the final as well. And we both had a North London team in the final, except ours was Arsenal.

As Arsenal were 3rd in the league and guaranteed Europe, it meant that we would take the UEFA Cup spot regardless of the result. But a win would be something magical and one for Brian Clough who didn’t quite get there in his time. We had already secured the league title by then and I had started playing second-string teams to keep the first XI fresh. That meant playing youngsters in all positions and one of them was a 20-year-old named Leigh Toone. I’d signed him on a free to bolster the reserves and after 8 goals and 4 assists in 26, I rewarded him with a run in the first team. 3 goals in 4 games told me all I needed to know and I took a chance on him for the final. Yes, I started a 20-year-old who hadn’t played a single cup game in the FA Cup final. He was in form–it made sense.

The match was cagey and Arsenal had very few chances. We, on the other hand, had plenty and Seaman kept everything out. Toone kept him on his toes from the left, the right, and in the air and the youngster finally broke the deadlock before half-time with an expert half volley. We continued to attack; Williams had an effort just go over the bar after 51 minutes and Henry had Arsenal’s best chance turned behind for a corner by Barry Roche. Williams missed a sitter on 73 minutes and Roche tipped over a Kanu attempt 6 minutes later. Arsenal’s last chance was 6 minutes from time when Ray Parlour rifled a half-volley wide. I made a last-minute substitution and after 5 minutes of injury time, the final whistle blew. WE WON THE FA CUP! Remarkably, this was the second time I’d won it with Nottingham Forest using this database (and that was part of a challenge as well which counted the FA Cup as a success.) It meant nothing for our main objective but what a run.

Football - 1959 FA Cup Final - Nottingham Forest 2 Luton Town 1 Forest captain Jack Burkitt lifts the trophy as he is chaired by team mates Jeff Whitefoot (right) and Tommy Wilson (left) at Wembley. 02/05/1959

The Transfers

 Nottingham Forest - Saturday 11th May 2002

 2001/2 Transfers

Date      Player In                  From                       Fee
19.7.01   Michael Dunwell            Bishop Auckland            £500K     
2.8.01    Neil Griffiths             Gloucester                 £8K       
5.8.01    Luis Andrade               Benfica                    £1.1M     
7.8.01    Stefan Larsson             Degerfors                  £26K      
7.8.01    Jarmo Saastamoinen         Free Transfer              Free      
8.8.01    Adam Hedley                Free Transfer              Free      
9.8.01    Mark Fox                   Free Transfer              Free      
9.8.01    Louie Whiting              Free Transfer              Free      
29.8.01   Leigh Toone                Free Transfer              Free      
30.8.01   Matthew Beale              Free Transfer              Free      
30.8.01   James Byrne                Free Transfer              Free      
30.8.01   Hugo                       Free Transfer              Free      
30.8.01   Haci Aslan                 IFK Västerås               £9K       
28.10.01  Gunnar Aase                Free Transfer              Free      
28.10.01  Scott Airth                Free Transfer              Free      
10.1.02   Stathis Tavlaridis         Arsenal                    £875K     

Date      Player Out                 To                         Fee
26.7.01   Mathieu Louis-Jean         Caen                       £1.7M     
14.8.01   David Prutton              Man City                   £5M       
6.1.02    Jack Lester                Huddersfield               £1M       
11.1.02   Jon Olav Hjelde            Huddersfield               £725K  

I kept transfers to a minimum, only adding to the youth intake and bolstering the defence. Oh, and signing Michael Dunwell because I needed a proven goalscorer. As much as I wanted to keep David Prutton, I knew getting £5m for him would be worth it in the long run. The other sales were for players that didn’t figure in my plans and I made a tidy profit on them.

The Players

  • Highest average rating: Luis Andrade – 8.15
  • Top goalscorer: Michael Dunwell – 26
  • Most appearances: Eoin Jess – 51 (1)
  • Most assists: Eoin Jess – 19
  • Most MoM awards: Gareth Williams – 10

It was truly a team effort with 8 players reaching double figures for goals and 4 for assists. Luis Andrade was an amazing signing from Benfica as were Hugo and Haci Aslan on frees.

Catch me in Season 2 to see how I did in my first Premier League season with Forest.

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