Greetings! Over two years ago, I began a journey on Championship Manager 01/02. I decided that I was going to take Scotland to World Cup 2002, which ultimately ended with a surprise run to the final. Obviously, we lost the final. Obviously, not familiar with the term “quitting whilst you’re ahead” I began the process of qualifying for Euro 2004. A short struggle later, we’d done it! Our bags are packed for Portugal 2004.

Of course, all of this was published on a website we no longer talk about. But these boys have been through a lot and we’re not going to pass up the opportunity to have a crack at the European Championships. Besides, we’re hosting along with Wales in 2008, so we best put on a good show.

It’s an absolute horror of a draw though…

Germany and Holland are well-known heavyweights and even if you think Sweden is the winnable game, let me remind you that Sweden on CM01/02, have a ridiculous array of talent including Bakircioglu, Selakovic alongside old favourites like Henrik Larsson. Send help.

For new followers of this, my Scotland team has always had two problems. Firstly, goalscorers. Stephen McPhee has always been the main man but he hasn’t scored for Scotland all season. Secondly, we have three average goalkeepers. Rab Douglas starts for Celtic, which you would think was a good thing, but it really isn’t. Neil Sullivan is reasonably good but has moments where, I dunno, David Beckham lobs him from his own half. Jamie Langfield is the future but every time I play him, he’s rubbish. It’s all very annoying and not a problem I can solve. Where’s Jim Leighton when you need him?

I think I’ve found the solution to my goalscoring issue. He’s come from nowhere to really make a mark at Celtic. 5 goals in Europe, 14 in 14 starts overall. 20 for heading. Fortune favours the brave, so he’s in. Robbie Winters hasn’t scored an International goal in 13 attempts, so he is out.

The other selections are mostly bad news for players who have made little impact for me. Colin Cameron, Charlie Miller, those types. I made a squad announcement because…reasons.

An extra bit of fun is that the yellow cards carry over from qualifying. Why would you do that? Most of my lads are a booking away from a ban. McPhee is the unlucky 23rd player you can’t see on this screenshot.

It’s Sweden up first. Neil Sullivan is banned for his red card against Spain in the last qualifier way back in October. Before we get underway we can sit back and size up the two group favourites, Holland & Germany.

Interesting. Germany avoided the 5-1 humiliation at the very start of this save but that ultimately forced the reset that changed German football as we know it, so maybe this Germany side has just ran its course? I guess I’ll find out soon.

Sweden then. I’ve gone with the experience of Douglas in net and my new favourite right-back is Bob Malcolm. Lynch is in for a debut alongside Kiegan Parker, who is flourishing at Celtic. Mark Kerr is, of course, the star man.

Sweden opt for classic 4-4-2. Other than Selakovic, it’s largely well-known Swedes rather than prodigies.

It’s a cagey game. Both sides know they need to win here to have any chance of finding a way out of this nightmare group but there’s no point throwing it all away in the early exchanges. It looks set to be 0-0 at the break but then lovely Lee Wilkie gets on the end of a corner and the Tartan Army are going berserk. It’s a vital half-time lead. But wait. What’s this? The referee hasn’t blown for half-time. Barry Ferguson is striding to the edge of the box and BURYING OUR SECOND GOAL. It’s TWO.

The lads are having the time of their life. I remind them it’s only half-time. It’s a no contest from here though, Mark Kerr adds a third and Gordon Ramsay appears on the sideline. “SHUT IT DOWN,” he says. He was a bold choice of assistant but one of his many TV catchphrases comes in useful here. The bannable players are withdrawn, a 3-0 win is secured and tonight, I am the King of Scotland.

Everybody did their bit. Except Bob, but who cares. Kerr gets man of the match for his 64 minutes whilst the only bad news is Philip McGuire getting a yellow that will mean he is banned for the Holland game.

A thrashing. Unlucky, Sweden.

That’s a good start. Imagine the scenes in Ireland though?

Back to our group and after a couple of days recovery, it’s time for Germany vs Sweden. Draw, please.

Well, I didn’t expect that. Does that help? I guess it means we could all get 3 points and that 3-0 win over Sweden could be good for the old goal difference. But hell, if we beat Holland we’re through. It’s not a time for defensive ideas.

I’ll stick with Rab. It’s not like Neil Sullivan is Lev Yashin. One change – Chris Innes in for the banned McGuire. Innes plays regularly in the Premier League for Middlesbrough but he’s been relatively average when pulling on the blue of Scotland, so we’ll see.

We’re under the cosh from the outset. We survive 15 minutes but once Clarence Seedorf bends in a free kick, we’re in a bit of trouble. He adds a second just 7 minutes later and that is that.

Wilkie has been awful so it’s time for Bob to play centre-back and Russell Anderson is on at right-back. The second half, we are better, but Waterreus, Bouma, Stam and…Mario Melchiot are too good for us. We can barely lay a glove on them.

A strange match in the end with hardly any incident. A problem but we’re still in with a chance of getting through. Unfortunately, so does everybody else.

That gives us a lot to think about ahead of the Germany game. Ideally, Holland will beat Sweden and we can, therefore, get through with a draw against Germany, who can’t possibly be terrible for 3 games. Can they? Join me next time to find out if we can find a way out of the group of death.