Words: Sid Lambert 
Images: Eidos and Offside Sports Photography

Sid runs that Proper Football account on Twitter. Follow him at @sid_lambert for an onslaught of football nostalgia.


You know what it’s like when you get a new job. You walk into your office. You unload your personal effects. You sit in your chair for the first time, slowly manipulating the fabric so it adjusts to the contours of its new owner.

Then maybe you take a stroll, smiling and shaking hands as you go. Soon you’re summoned into the boardroom, where you accept the warm welcome of your new employers. The directors sit around the oak table, freshly polished for your arrival, and discuss their vision of the club. There’s lots of positivity.

It’s a fresh start. A new dawn. You’ll be given time to mould the team in your vision. But… results are important. And we’ll want to see a good start. Don’t want the fans getting twitchy, do we? Oh, and by the way... the budget’s a bit tight so don’t go spending silly money. Anyway, onwards and upwards.

The truth is, you’re not even listening. You know the drill.

You’re not worried about what’s coming five years down the line. You’re worried about the next five minutes because you’re about to make the most important phone call of your career.

Whether the men in suits want silverware for the trophy cabinet or expect you to battle bravely against the drop, you know the first name on your team sheet already. He’s a defensive colossus who’ll sweat blood for the cause.

And he’s available for free.

But you need to act fast.

The vultures are circling.

Taribo West is the hottest free agent on the market. A decorated Nigerian international, he’d sprung to prominence with French title-winners Auxerre before joining Inter Milan in 1997. A disappointing spell at the San Siro was followed by an equally disappointing spell at the San Siro when he joined rivals AC Milan in 2000.

West is now officially entering the journeyman stage of his career. Short stays at Kaiserslautern and Derby County followed, where his reputation as a difficult character preceded him.

And now here he is, in the summer of 2001, wandering in the football wilderness. The world may have lost faith, but you haven’t. You see the determination behind the haircut. West isn’t done yet. There’s one last battle left in him. He’s a rebel searching for a cause. And you’ve got to convince him that yours is the right one.

That’s the thing about Taribo. He’s motivated by more than money. Fed up with being labelled a mercenary. He wants to belong. Whether it’s Real Sociedad or Rushden & Diamonds, he needs something worth fighting for. You tell him he’s gonna be your General. Your indispensable right-hand man. From now on, wherever you go, he goes too. He brings his boots; you’ll bring the battle...

It’s hard to sum up Taribo West’s impact in Championship Manager 01/02. And even harder to work out why. By the turn of the Millennium, the Super Eagle was no longer soaring the highs of the previous decade when he starred for Nigeria at successive World Cups. Instead, he was hurtling towards an early retirement, looking for any quick cash before his dodgy knees hit terra firma.

He’d become a figure of fun. More famous for his follicles than his football. When that happens, as Jason Lee will tell you, it probably means you’re in the shit.

Still, someone in the Nigerian sector of the Championship Manager research department liked him enough to do some creative accounting on the database. Ironically, this might be a case of art imitating life. West would later be accused by Partisan Belgrade of faking his birth certificate and being 12 years older than he suggested. Fans of Plymouth Argyle, who saw West play a handful of forgettable games for them in 2005, may not dispute this theory.

Still, his excellence on Champ Manager can never be debated. On this version of the game West, a devout Christian and pastor, was reborn as the bone-crunching God of War. Stats like aggression, bravery, and tackling don’t do justice to the Nigerian’s own brand of beautiful violence. He was a weapon of mass destruction who brings delight to the masses. Whether happily snapping into Javier Saviola or crunching Carl Asaba, he became a cult hero wherever he went.

Even as success came and the champagne flowed, his own bloodlust was never quenched. He fights for the badge. For the shirt. For the glory. Until he can fight no more.

Put simply, signing West is the springboard to success. The first—and best—decision you could ever make as a manager.

All thanks to that one phone call.

And if he signs for someone else, you reboot the fucking game and start again.

Did you like that? You should probably subscribe to our quarterly magazine, then. You won't regret it.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published