Managerial games have always been popular amongst sports fans. In real life, us armchair managers always know best and regularly converse with others about the failings and shortcomings of our respective teams and question why managers aren’t playing a certain player or a certain way. Managerial sports sims allow us (in a small way) to put our money where our mouths are.
I struggled to find much information on Premier Manager 97 other than it was developed and published by Gremlin Interactive and released in 1996. As far as I can tell, it was only released on the Mega Drive (although I have seen screenshots for it on PC), so that is the what I will review.
The object of the game is straight forward. You manage a team and must lead them to the glory by winning leagues and cups whilst not over spending in the transfer market.
When the game opens, you have the choice of how many players who wish to play (1 or 2), what type of game (full or demo, although why you’d buy a game only to play the demo is beyond me), to start a new game or to load a saved game.
Once you enter your name, you can choose to manage any team from the Third Division. These were the days when teams like Brighton and Hove Albion were nowhere near the Premier League. Other teams who have competed in the Premier League in the past few years such as Hull City, Swansea City and Fulham can also be found wallowing in the lower leagues.
Once you have choose the team you wish to manage, you are taken to the home screen which contains a text box at the top explaining your name and the team you manage, your position in the league, what competition the next match will be for (league or cup) and the date. Below that, you can choose from 12 icons. From left to right and top to bottom, these icons:
Transfer Market – Where you can choose to buy and sell players.
Stadium – Invest money in your stadiums to improve its capacity and facilities.
Club Finances – Best keep an eye on your ingoings and outgoings.
Squad – Where you can see your squad and player stats and change formation and tactics.
Cup – Shows you the fixtures and results of the two domestic cups.
Sponsorship – Choose which companies to advertise in your stadium. All monies go towards your club revenue.
Phone – Hire and fire backroom staff, set up training for players, see injured players, see who your scout is recommending and how your youth team players are progressing.
League Tables – Keep an eye on your league position.
Save Game – Save or load a game.
Question Mark – Choose to turn off game animations, and which league and cup results you see.
Fax – Keep an eye on the latest news.
Whistle – Play your match day fixture
When the match starts, you are taken to a screen that shows the name of the two teams playing and a gauge with a ball that moves left and right showing where the ball is on the pitch. When action happens, a simple animation appears in the style of an old dot-matrix scoreboard. There are several animations but the main ones you’ll see are either near misses, saves or goals. Occasionally you see a booking, where the referee appears and holds up a card, and/or an injury where an ambulance parks up and opens its rear doors.
You also have the option to adjust the game speed. I personally prefer to put the speed on Ultra speed. At any time, you can stop the game to make tactical changes. Your squad team screen will automatically appear at halftime, if you have an injury or a sending off.
If an event happens such as a goal or booking, the description of the event (goal, booking etc.), the name of the player and minute will appear under its respective team.
One of the aspects of the game that I didn’t understand was that not only does each player have several numbered stats (Handling, Tackling, Passing Shooting etc) but they also have an overall rating of:
- Fair with up to four stars
- Good with up to four stars
- Very Good with up to four stars
- Superb with up to four stars
- World Class
- The Ultimate
I don’t see the point of this overall rating as you can see the stats you need. The stats are more valuable (and clearer) as to how good a player actually is.
Compared to the likes of Championship manager 97 (Champs) and Ultimate Soccer Manager 2, Premier Manager 97 may look crude and seem rather basic. To my mind it is a simpler introduction to the world of football management and is certainly quicker to play than Champs.
The menu is user friendly, and the game is easy to learn. The hardest aspect of the game is simply working out your tactics and keeping an eye on your bank balance. You don’t have to deal with disgruntled players, or with bigger clubs swooping in to tempt your better players away from your club.
The music and SFX are pretty much non-existent but then you are not playing this game for those.
I owned this game back in the 90s and found it very addictive. I got very good at the game and used to win all the trophies and competitions. Revisiting the game, I can’t remember how I did it and certainly have not been as successful. I found the balancing of your money very difficult and failed to attract more fans through the gates. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something very simply and it will no doubt dawn on me at some point.
Did I complete the game?
If by complete you mean win all the trophies, then yes, certainly in my youth, I did.
What the critics said:
At present, I cannot find contemporary gaming reviews for this game.
“Easy to learn with intuitive menus. Not as comprehensive or as difficult as Champion Manager 97, but can still be a challenge and fun to play. It’s easy to dip in and out of too. Mediocre graphics though.”
What are your memories of Premier Manager 97? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.