Championship Manager Online RIP

Opinion: CMO megafan John Carter waves a tearful goodbye...

Five years ago my daily routine changed forever. I discovered the greatest online football management sim of all time - Championship Manager Online.

I'd log in each morning - to check the previous evening's result, or to find out if I've managed to obtain the signature of that all-important transfer target.

If there'd been an important match the night before, I would get up early to check the result before setting off to work. Later in the day I'd have to log in again to set tactics, training etc.

I wasn't the only one honoured by this willful addiction, either. All around the world, thousands of like-minded wannabe football managers were doing exactly the same.

CMO gave us the opportunity to pit our footy management skills against real people from real locations. Even on holiday, many CMOer's incurred the wrath of their partners by logging in at an internet cafés just to check up on their team's progress.

As you;d expect from this kind of dedication, many managers had a long-term team building plan - which is what makes Eidos' decision to
suddenly close the game particularly galling.

Would-be Fergies and Redknapps would scour the transfer markets for the next big talent - and often pip the real-world's dugout dwellers to the post. That's how dedicated we were. In the early days, some managers with foresight managed to sign Lionel Messi for a paltry £38k.

All of us that signed up with CMO let it become a big part of our lives and just believed that it would always be there.

Like all great games, it was as simple or complicated as you wanted to make it - but its addictiveness ensured you'd keep coming back for more.

Besides the fact that it was the best online footy management sim by far - with much better gameplay than any of its competitors - the thing that really put CMO head-and-shoulders above the rest was the community. That's the thing I'll miss the most.

It wasn't just a small group of elitist geeks playing; there was a wide spectrum of ages, nationalities and backgrounds, all with a shared love of "the Beautiful Game" - and a desire to lead there team to greatness.

There was a thriving chat room and forums filled with the type of banter and serious debate you only get when genuine football fans get together.

For the past three years there has been an annual meet up, with this year's scheduled to take place in London on the weekend of the 3rd July. Despite the plug being pulled on CMO, this year's meet up looks like its going to be bigger than ever.

The 30th of April is looming ever closer and beyond that just a big void. How do you replace something that has been a big part of your life for such a long time?

I guess the answer is, you can't replace the irreplaceable. To pinch a phrase from Bill Shankly: "CMO isn't just a game, it's much more important than that."