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Championship Manager 5 gets dugout date

Release fixture rearranged for Friday March 18, with rest of the world to follow April 1 and PS2 and Xbox versions in spring

Eidos has finally announced a release date for Championship Manager 5, the latest instalment of the legendary PC footie management series being developed by an all-new team.

Champ 5 will kick off on March 18 in the UK, with the "international" release following on April 1. PS2 and Xbox versions are scheduled to hit shelves later in the spring.

The footie strategy game was originally scheduled for release back in October 2004, but delays pushed it off the radar until now.

The Champ series began ruining footie fans' social lives back in 1992. Recently the original development team behind the title, Sports Interactive, split from Eidos but left the Champ brand name with the publisher. Last November Sports Interactive released Football Manager 2005, seen by many as the true successor to Championship Manager 4.

Eidos' Champ 5 is built on totally new code but developer Beautiful Game Studios promise that it will "deliver the same depth and detail as before" and remain true to the series' 2D match engine roots. In addition, the new code apparently allows for "much faster loading and gameplay".

John Webb, Championship Manager Brand Director at Eidos says: "Championship Manager 5 represents a major step-change for this award-winning franchise. We've responded to consumer demands and delivered a simulation with the realism and detail loved of Championship Manager yet made it much faster and more accessible. Championship Manager 5 delivers for existing Championship Manager fans plus will attract many new devotees to the brand."

Whether Championship Manager 5 can stand up to the rugged challenge of Football Manager 2005 remains to be seen, and the relative short notice Eidos has given us about the release date is slightly worrying.

We'll bring you the verdict on Champ 5 first.