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CM01/02 European Nights Part 4: My quest to restore Aston Villa to greatness

Miracles can happen as a shock victory leads to a streak for Villa.

Stefan Moore of Aston Villa
Beautiful Stefan
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

For those who don't know, you can download the legendary Championship Manager 01/02 for free. For those of us, like myself, who were nine when this came out - you’ll get the chance to actually win something!

For me, it’s the chance to achieve something legendary with my favourite Villa players of all time - Mellberg, Barry, Angel, Dublin and Taylor, to fulfil their potential and match the legends of ‘82. It’s been a hard winter, but things might be looking up!

It’s time to win the European Cup. Eventually.

February 2002:

Well, I… didn’t expect that? Kasey Keller made all the difference and he’s played so well since joining. I want to make that signing permanent. Makes a lot of difference from Peter ‘ShitHands’ Enckelman.

Thanks to the Home Office, one of my transfers - Cuban defender Alexander Cruzata won’t be completed in time and now must wait until July. Thanks.

We play Bolton in the Premier Division next and Mellberg gets sent off after 11 minutes. Then Alpay gets sent off after 17 minutes. Somehow Leonhardson manages to score for us, but Henrik Pedersen cancels it out. Damn. Bolton get a red-card in the 77th minute and we still hang on. Ian Taylor scores from the resulting free-kick and bam - we’ve stolen a victory with NINE MEN.

I suspect my squad will be up for a ‘random drugs test’ soon. It doesn’t help that Mellberg has been suspended for three games now, but Ronnie Johnsen is back and up for being a centre-half. Love him. Just in time for West Brom as well.

Our defensive frailties are quickly established as West Brom score in the 2nd minute of play and again in the 10th. Mark Kinsella scores for my men in the 20th and it’s 2-1 before half-time. West Brom score another, but Angel quickly counters. It finishes 3-2. We have seven shots and they are all on target. We do try hard. Thankfully, the FA Cup tie with Walsall is next. Cristiano Ronaldo debut, anyone?

Nice. In the next game against West Ham, we go down 2-0 early on, but like the phoenix, we rise. It finishes 4-2 thanks to super-sub Juan Pablo Angel.

March 2002:

We have the beating of Charlton, courtesy of a late Angel header and we’d have had an unbeaten 2002 thus far in the Premier Division if not for the loss against West Brom.

We draw 2-2 with Chelsea in the next match and repeat that result against Birmingham in the next round, who actually win two penalties through diving. Dirty bastards.

Strangely enough, March flies by with only three fixtures. I expected a bit more, but we didn’t lose and finish the month with five points out of a possible nine. We possibly could have taken all the points if I could decide on a starting striker, and let’s not forget - Mustapha Hadji was out with injury. The season is coming to a close and we’re pushing 7th place now.

April 2002:

A visit from Newcastle starts April off as we wind down the Premier Division season. Again, we dominate the first half with no less than eight shots on target, but go in on a stalemate at half-time. Thankfully, Mustapha Hadji is back and scores a great-free kick. Mark Kinsella extends our lead with a fierce volley before Carl Cort pulls one back for the ‘Toon. It finishes 2-1 and we’re back to winning.

Of course, Mellberg picks up another yellow card and manages to get another suspension for two matches. Gotta’ love him. As I said, we’re 7th now, but with six matches let we’re nine points off of sixth place. Luckily, Manchester United won the League Cup and are pretty much guaranteed a top-six finish. In other news, Arsenal are running away with the league on 74 points.

We might have a way back into Europe on the sly as we’ve been invited to apply for the single English slot in the Inter-Toto Cup. This is a great backup if we can’t steal it in the table and if we win, as we did last August, we’ll get into the UEFA Cup.

Bosko Balaban pushes through a message seeking assurances about his future. I look at Stefan Moore’s goal tally and laugh at him.

Our trip to Anfield proves fruitful as we take a lead through a Stephane Henchoz own goal and double it with a Kinsella strike before half-time. Lee Hendrie, of course, makes it three before Steven Gerrard does what he does best and scores a thirty yeard effort. We finish 3-1 away against the team who are second in the league. 2 out 2 so far in April and we’re seven points off of 6th placed Sunderland.

Manchester City are the next test and even though the press tells me I’m fortunate that their star man, Nicholas Anelka is out, that doesn’t matter as Shaun Goater scores a first-half brace that is luckily countered by Mark Kinsella and Marcus Allback. Somehow, someway - Ulises De La Cruz scores in the 94th minute to secure a 3-2 victory. 3 outta’ three in April.

It’s more good news as Sunderland and Liverpool are the FA Cup Finalists and they are both competing for European spots, meaning more may be shared around the table. Our last games are against Leeds, Arsenal, Boro and Southampton. Leeds are right above us in 7th place, making that a real ‘six-pointer’.

That match against Leeds? It’s not even competitive. 25 shots. 70% possession.

That’s four out of four in April! I’ll collect my manager of the month award, then. Arsenal have already secured the Premier Division title whilst Charlton and Southampton suffer relegation.

And I can’t believe it, I’m actually manager of the month!

We enter May in 7th place, with a game in hand on Leeds. We’re on 56 points. If we win out, that puts on 65 points. Fourth placed Tottenham are on 64 points. This means there’s a slim possibility of European Cup qualification.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

May 2002:

We start off against Champions Arsenal, without Lee Hendrie and Mustapha Hadji. It’s a bit of a patchwork team, but Ronnie Johnsen is back with Gareth Barry filling in at centre-half so Johnsen can destroy Dennis Bergkamp.

Suddenly, we take the lead through Øyvind Leonhardsen’s tenth goal of the season. In front of a sell-out Villa Park, we go in at half-time 1-0 up.

Olof Mellberg gets sent off on 60 minutes, because of course he does. I take off Angel and bring on Cristiano and Steve Staunton as extra midfielders. I’ll fucking well hold onto this with tooth and nail.

We did it. Of course, I fine Mellberg for constantly getting sent off. He accepts this like the awesome chap he is.

Horror strikes on the same day as the Arsenal match. Kasey Keller’s loan has finished. Fucking what? We agreed May, but I didn’t think that meant the first day of the pissing month!

Peter Shithands is back in goal. Thank the footballing gods that it’s Boro and Southampton next.

Of course we go down 1-0. Of fucking course. Peter Enckelman gets his one chance back in the lineup. He literally had a chance planted at his feet and he’s cocked it ALL up. Thankfully, Cristiano, Steve Stone and Øyvind Leonhardsen bring the score back to 3-1.

Peter Enckelman? He’s fucked it here. Off you go, lad. Mark Delaney has the best handling rating in the rest of the squad so he’s my backup to Stefan Postma now.

Our European Cup qualification hangs in the balance. We can only finish fourth if we can make up six goals on Chelsea in our next match against relegated Southampton, they’ve got a game in hand as well.

Fucking Chelsea have also made a transfer bid for the ‘world class’ Mark Kinsella. It’s only £6 million. I’d need to see £10 million. Chelsea back off. If you want the goods, you’ve got to flash the cash!

Hassan Kachloul has decided that now is a good time to criticise me to the press. On further inspection, Hassan believes that ‘his reputation should guarantee him a first-team position’. Look, Hassan - when you’ve got Mark Kinsella, Øyvind Leonhardsen, Lee Hendrie, Mustapha Hadji and Steve Stone scoring forty-five goals between them and you’ve managed fuck-all in your eight appearances. What do you expect? Even Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s still wearing pissing braces has ONE.

Peter Enckelman is also seeking assurances about his place in the team. I tell him to fuck off.

I change formation for the Southampton game because I need to put ten past the bastards and play three strikers. We draw 1-1.

We’re awarded nearly £16 million for finishing 7th.

Here’s the top scorers for my team of 2002.

It’s been a season of two halves, we couldn’t win in 2001 and we couldn’t lose in 2002. We had fan protests against me in 2001 and fan adoration for me in 2002. If we had a bit more luck in 2001, we’d have qualified for the European Cup and possibly even challenged for the title. Marcus Allback, Olof Mellberg, Steve Staunton and Mark Kinsella get called up the World Cup. I’ve been named as manager of the month again, and with a few improvements, this squad can do amazing things. Øyvind Leonhardsen wins the Aston Villa Fans Player of the Year award. What a nice season.

It can be better, I’m playing simple football and ensuring I get the best out of above-average players. Leonhardsen, Hendrie and Johnsen have been revelations and Stefan Moore is developing into a tidy striker. Next year? I’m gunning for the top four.