|A good left peg is a hard thing to find, but when you find it you should cherish it forever. Or something like that, but maybe in a tone which makes me sound a little less weird and obsessive about Football Manager.
But I digress. The problem with the AMC/R/L role is that there were so many brilliant players who were inter-changeable across your midfield attack that I’m sure some of the players I’ve already listed in the AMR and AMC votes were the guys you selected to drive your attack down that left flank.
But in saying that I believe I’ve put together a list worthy of that left wing position. Way back with Championship Manager 93 there were three stand-out players for me – Joey Beauchamp, Scott Oakes and Mark Pembridge. Back when foreign players in England were still in the minority, signing Beauchamp – a player that could operate centrally or on the left – was a bit like signing a foreigner. Well, he sounded French at least, and you could snap him up from Oxford United. In real life he played at West Ham but eventually ended back at Oxford.
Oakes was a bit of a legend at Luton Town and it was an FA Cup performance against West Ham back in the 90s that caught everyone’s eye. He was a tricky winger and fulfilled his potential in CM93 but after a move to Sheffield Wednesday in 1996 his career took a bit of a nosedive. Pembridge probably had the most successful career out of the three playing for Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Benfica, Everton and Fulham, but in CM93 he had his pick of clubs to play for
Both Simon Davies and Gareth Jellyman have already featured in previous votes so it won't come as a total surprise that the final piece of the Championship Manager 3 jigsaw, Matthew Etherington, is in the list for best left winger.Etherington was meant to be the left winger England were crying out for and in the game he filled that role very comfortably. In real life he faced a gambling addiction which couldn't have helped his career which included spells at Tottenham and West Ham, and now Stoke City.
Leeds United were spending money like it was going out of fashion at the end of the 90s and assembled a fantastic squad, which included a number of promising young players. One of those was Stephen McPhail who fulfilled that potential in Championship Manager 99/00 but it wasn't to be back in the real world. After leaving Leeds his career has largely been spent in the Championship with Barnsley, Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday.
There must be something Sports Interactive put in the Swedish water because another couple of great CM/FM stars from that region was Alexander Farnerud and Stefan Ishizaki. In Championship Manager 01/02, both were typical Champ Man Scandinavian bargain buys; Farnerud from Landskrona and Ishizaki from AIK. Spells at Stuttgart and Torino was as good as it got for Farnerud, while Ishizaki played in Sweden and Norway, and is now finishing his career at LA Galaxy.
The main man of Championship Manager 4 was arguably the Finnish wonderkid Mika Ääritalo. Capable of playing in multiple positions in attack, Ääritalo was available on the cheap from TPS Turku. The player was a must-buy as he would create and score goals at ease and remains an iconic name within the CM/FM community. Aston Villa beat off a host of top clubs to sign him in 2003 but in three years he failed to make a single appearance and was shipped back to TPS Turku.
Three great CM/FM left wingers starred in Championship Manager 03/04. First up is Lionel Morgan who you could sign from Wimbledon, then Norwegian superstar Jan Kristiansen was a steal from Esbjerg, and last by by no means least, US teen sensation Freddy Adu from DC United who would most definitely become of the greatest players in the world.
Injury stopped Morgan's career at the age of 21 and he now runs a management company, Infinite Sports Management, with former teammate Jobi McAnuff. Kristiansen spent a couple of seasons with German outfit FC Nürnberg but is now playing in the Danish league. And then we have Adu, who was dubbed the next Pelé at 14, was unable to cope with the media pressure and could only manage a trial at Manchester United and one season with Benfica before he was forced back to the MLS to rebuild his career and is now playing for Bahia in the Brazilian league.
The final two players come from Football Manager 2008. Henri Saivet was touted as the next Thierry Henry in France and if you could stump up enough cash to get Bordeaux to part with their man, then you had a player who could play in attacking roles down both flanks and through the middle. But he never quite reached the levels of va va voom to the point where he has even decided not to pursue playing international football for France and has since turned out a few times for Senegal (the country of his birth).
Pablo Piatti completes the list. The Argentinean winger with an Italian passport could be signed from Estudiantes and would cause most right-backs havoc. Back in the real world Piatti has carved out a decent career in La Liga, first at Almeria and now at Valencia, but with just one international cap to his name he has a long way to go to match his world class Football Manager status.
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