On any version of the Championship Manager/Football Manager series one of the first jobs of any aspiring manager would be to conduct what I sometimes referred to as a ‘Reverse Viking’: to raid the Scandinavian market for a crop of players.
This obligatory foray would happen irrespective of which club you were managing; obviously if you were at a bigger the club then perhaps some of these signings would prop up your reserves but they were still needed nonetheless. However, if you were looking to gain promotion to the upper echelons of Europe’s elite leagues then you could regularly pick up first team regulars for a couple of hundred thousand – sometimes substantially less ( and you could always stick them in the reserves or loan them out, sit back and watch their values soar).
Mikael Dorsin, Frederik Risp, Stefan Selakovic, the list goes on and on and it’s difficult to pick out just one man that stands out from the rest. But the one name that instantly takes me back to a simpler era, when my paper round and homework were the only thing stopping me from an evening on the PC, is that of Tommy Svindal Larsen. From Championship Manager 97/98 through to 01/02, he was absolutely unstoppable.
At Stabaek when the game started, Svindal Larsen was always available for a nominal fee and would often ‘happily’ sign for a club lower down the league pyramid, (but that isn’t to diminish how much he was needed at any club you managed).
Whilst he didn’t have a smorgasbord (I’m sorry I just couldn’t resist) of 20s across his stats like some legends of the game, he did have some in key areas including positioning, passing and determination. Maybe that’s why he was so willing to leave his Scandanavian routes and head to England. My fondest memories of this readiness to up sticks came when I took over at Scunthorpe midway through a season. They were in the old third division relegation zone, yet I was able to land him for 25k. Obviously he guided us up the league to promotion via the play offs. Can you imagine his agent selling the move to him?
Agent: “So Tommy, we’ve had some contact from a club called Scunthorpe United. I won’t lie, I’ve never heard of them, there’s no signing on fee, the wages are desperately poor and they’re currently struggling in Division 3.”
Tommy: “Give me the contract to sign.”
Agent: ‘Tommy, please, sleep on it at least, we can’t keep doing this. I think you can hold out and sign for a bigger club; maybe you could play in the Champions League!”
Tommy: “No, I must sign for whoever wants me. I am Tommy Svindal Larsen, I must help whoever is in need.”
Agent: “Please, I beg you Tommy, this is getting ridiculous…”
Tommy: “THE DECISION IS MADE. BRING ME SOME BREAD AND EAT WELL TONIGHT, FOR TOMORROW WE RIDE FOR SCUNTHORPE…”
Whether you played him in the defensive hole or on the left of a midfield three (remember these were the days when 5-3-2 was king) Svindal Larsen guaranteed you an average rating between 8.2 and 8.6 a season, chipping in with assists and goals a-plenty, and more MoM performances than you could shake a preverbial stick at.
In real life, he finished his career at the same place it started: his home town club of Odd (they were known as Odd Grenland when he played for them) and are now known as Odd BallKlubb, going back to their original name, and seemingly abandoning the people of Grenland. They recently played Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League, and during UEFA’s preview of the match Tommy was mentioned as a notable former player, although this feels like UEFA have drastically undersold him in my opinion. Although to be fair, Odd’s most notable contribution to world football in recent years was surely this 57m headed goal by Jone Samuelson against in 2011.
In fact, it seems the fans at the Skagerak Arena love Tommy as much as Sports Interactive fans circa the turn the of the millennium. There seems to be evidence that suggests a kiosk named in honour of Tommy has recently been given the green light to serve alcoholic refreshments. One day I might make a Champ Man pilgrimage to enjoy a beverage from the Svindal Kiosk & Tippearena (if you happen to know what the Tippearena is please do not hesitate to get in touch).
Additionally, he was capped 24 times for Norway, and did actually win the Norwegian Cup with Stabaek, but all this pales into insignificance with the raft of domestic and European titles he won in Championship Manager. I mean come on, does it really matter if you’ve played more than 100 games in the Bundesliga for FC Nurnberg, if you could have won the Champions League with Rochdale on a computer game?