I’d like to break from the normal patternof this blog, and focus on a particular player who’ll feature in the next release of Championship Manager 89/90. Jovica Strok is a veteran Croatian attacking midfielder at NK Zagreb, a middling club in that was then Yugoslavia. So what, you may be wondering, makes Jovica Strok notable? Well, it’s the fact that he isn’t real – and not just that, he’s the grandfather of Ivica Strok, one of the most famous fictional footballers of all time.
Having battled with mental health issues – and Football Manager – myself, I was moved by Johnny Sharples’ story about how Ivica’s Football Manager exploits helped him through am extremely difficult time in his life, and decided to break my 100% accuracy rule in this patch and include Ivica’s Granddad, Jovica (his Dad, Hrvoje, is somehow a real player).
So who is Jovica Strok? Born in 1956, the attacking midfielder began his career with NK Zagreb, the second club from Croatia’s largest city. He broke into the team in the late 1970s, before joining Hajduk Split, where he broke into the Yugoslav national team, for whom he would win seven caps, which would surely have been more but for the fearsome competition in that team.
In 1984, having won the Yugoslav Cup with Hajduk, he joined Dundee United, at a time when foreign players were a rarity in the UK. He settled well in Scotland, playing in two cup finals, and his positive experience in this league surely had an influence on his grandson’s decision to join Celtic some decades later. After an injury-hit last season with the Tangerines, Strok Senior rejoined Zagreb in 1988, where he remains at the start of the 1980/90 season.
As much fun as it was to imagine Jovica’s story, the real aim is to achieve a small part of what Ivica Strok has: to raise awareness of CALM, a superb campaign which promotes better mental health awareness in men, encouraging and helping them to get the help they need. Find more info about the work they do – and donate if you can – here: https://www.thecalmzone.net/