For the younger generation out come the Xbox's and the PlayStation's as they fire up FIFA 14 to try and re-enact that 7-1 World Cup semi-final mauling to kill time before we are entertained and dazzled by real men with plucked eyebrows and pink boots again, but that's not for me. Partly because of the confusion I cause myself having to press Triangle, Square, Triangle, Circle, X, Circle just to perform a simple pass and partly because those games will never come close to Sensible Soccer in my eyes.
But the main reason I ignore these new shiny football games is because for the past 20 years, whenever I have felt the urge to get as close to the beautiful game as I can without actually physically playing, I simply pull out the old laptap, dust it down and prepare myself for a marathon session of being hauled up in a dark room until the early hours of the morning. Because at the heart of my hard drive sits thousands, if not millions, of stats, data and numbers that would arouse the smartest of mathematical geniuses. It's the game which has made the term 'How much ram do I need for...' probably one of the most popular typed phrases on Google.
Whether you know it as Championship Manager or Football Manager, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that for every gamer it has touched, we all have a story to tell. It could be donning a suit and hosting a press conference in your kitchen after leading Wrexham to their first ever FA Cup Final or taking Accrington Stanley to Champions League glory, or applying to the FA for the vacant England manager role and supplying a CV full of your CM/FM accomplishments of consecutive back-to-back promotions with Tooting & Mitcham Utd; the one common bond we all share beyond a shadow of a doubt is the joy of unearthing a complete gem of a player for the small fee of £250k and watching him tear up the world's best defenders.
When a wonderkid in the game becomes a global superstar in real life, suddenly everyone and their WAG knows him. But when that player bangs in 50 goals a season for you and never comes near to an Anglo-Italian Cup Final (let alone a European Cup final) in real life, he is the player who remains in our hearts forever!
How exciting was it to boast to your friends about the unknown Icelandic striker you'd found or the kid in the Millwall youth team you'd plucked for a cool £1m who was now leading the line for Norwich in the upcoming Uefa Cup semi-final match against Barcelona?
The simple truth is that Champ Man has created footballing legends in their own right. We don't care about the ones they got right, we care more about the ones they got wrong because in a strange way Tonton Zola Moukoko will always belong to us whereas Lionel Messi belongs to the world
If football is a game of opinions then CM/FM is a game of questions. Questions like who would have thought that flashing text could evoke so much excitement, in the same way that losing a game 1-0 when you've had 33 shots to their two can conjure so much anger? Or why haven't the Scandanavian nations ruled the football world for the last decade when we all know the first country you send your scouts to is Sweden, Norway and Denmark to find the next world class talent?
The love and nostalgia fueled by finding the next big thing in the game was made more apparent to me after I posted a blog listing my top 10 best Championship / Football Manager players of all time in June last year and watching as it fast became the most popular post on my site in terms of the traffic generated from search.
Alongside the post I ran a poll asking people to vote for their favourite all-time player, and after 150 votes it was Belarus scoring sensation Maxim Tsigalko from CM 01/02 who came out on top.
So this got me thinking. Who would be the players from the past two decades of footy-sim management heaven that would make up the greatest CM/FM first XI all of all-time? Which of the legends from the game would outshine the legends of reality; because that is the key here. This would be a team made up completely from those players who never quite lived up to their CM/FM billing.
So after spending a good few hours trawling on the internet and reminiscing about my love affair which started way back when with Championship Manager 93, I suddenly found myself with a list of nearly 200 players! That's 200 players who never quite made the grade. Of course, some players have done better than others and had decent careers while others were never seen again (or in Mo Madeira's case, never even existed!), but this is a huge part of our love and affection for the game as fans.
So here is your chance to vote for the players who led your Blackpool team to that famous 3-0 win at the Bernabeu or grabbed the winning goal to secure promotion to the Premier League for Gateshead! This will be the ultimate CM/FM First XI!
Over the next week I will post eight blogs asking readers to vote for their favourite players in the game, starting with goalkeeper and ending with the all important strikers. I don't expect it to be easy. It's a bit like being asked to choose the best World Cup winning team of all time or trying to pick which Hollyaoks actress you want to crop up in Game of Thrones next so we can see her get her kit off!
Once each blog has been posted you will have the chance to vote for your favourite players in each of the following positions: goalkeeper, right-back, centre-back (x2), left-back, defensive midfielder, right winger (AMR), attacking midfielder, left winger (AML), and striker (x2).
The vote will remain open for the next three months with the first poll for goalkeepers going live on July 19, 2014 and the final vote (for the strikers) to be posted on July 23, 2014. Then on November 1, 2014 I will post the Ultimate Championship / Football Manager First XI as voted for by the fans who have loved the game for 20 years!
Comments and your CM/FM stories are welcomed so please post in the comments your memories of your favourite players. Now go get voting...!
As each poll goes live you'll be able to click the image below to go directly to the blog post to cast your vote!
Vote opens: July 19, 2014
Vote opens: July 20, 2014
Vote opens: July 20, 2014
Vote opens: July 21, 2014
Vote opens: July 23, 2014