For the uninitiated, the Premier Manager series started back in the early 90s on the PC, Atari and a few other consoles. When it was ported to the Mega Drive in 1995, it spelled a whole load of wasted weekends for console management fanatics, not least myself: I never had a PC back then, so this was my first experience of footy management games.
Firstly, I was extremely surprised to see a video game with English football teams. Back then, my whole game library consisted of American and Japanese video games like John Madden, Sonic the Hedgehog and EA Hockey. Course, Premier Manager wasn't the first console game to use the English leagues - Striker had done that a whole three years before (albeit with hilariously named player parodies) and I daresay a few other carts bore the Premier League licence prior to '95. But to me, this made the game massively attractive. The prospect of taking my beloved Wigan Athletic from Third Division no-hopers -- as they were at the time -- from the pits of despair to the top of the table was too tempting an opportunity to pass up.
Fifteen years later and how times have changed. My goal of getting the Latics to the Premiership had actually been achieved in real life, without the aid of a computer game. Or maybe so, I dunno if Wigan's chairman Dave Whelan is a closet Champ Manager fan or something.
Somewhere along the line I managed to obtain a copy of the 1997 version of the game. It isn't all that dissimilar to the original - only a few minor graphical and technical tweaks and a new soundtrack differentiate this from the 1995 release.
Most importantly, however, it's got the all-new 1997 season players such as... well, I won't name them all here, but get ready to be battered by the likes of Paul Peschisolido, Clive Mendonca (awesome player in the game) and Alan Shearer as you work your way up through the leagues. Lemme tell you, this is a verrrry difficult task for even the most hardened of Premier Manager veterans. You literally have to take things one game at a time and get into some of the finer points of the game if you want to be really successful - something that'll take a long while to master. Aside from squad shuffling, there's hiring and firing of staff, promotion of youth players, training, injuries and dabbling in the transfer market should you so choose.
A Mega Drive nut? If statistics and football are your type of thing, then Premier Manager is the game for you. I know that's a pretty small margin to fall within, but I'm sure you lot are out there!
Such is my level of fanaticism for this game that I recently purchased a second copy. I wanted to start a new saved game without wiping my old one, in which I'd managed to steer the mighty Latics to the toppermost division of the English leagues. As it happened, some other bloke named Ste had also done this on the saved game of my newest copy - much better than me in fact. Blast, and I thought I was the PM champ! Check out my commentary (video below) for some more info on this.
Recommended sequels: Premier Manager '99 (PSX)
Get if: You liked any of the earlier versions or want a footy management game for a fourth generation console. As far as I can see, there aren't really any others.
Avoid if: You don't like football, stats or games where you have little control over the immediate action.
Premier Manager '97 [Mega Drive] - Also available for PC
Buy this game:
- Rarity rating [10=extremely rare]: 4
- Buy@eBay for around £5
- One of the later games, so you may find it floating around somewhere. If you live in America, then sorry but I don't believe it was ever released on your side of the pond.
Video commentary/review (more info)
For some tips on Premier Manager and Premier Manager 97 for the Mega Drive, see here.