A little bit slow off the mark with this blog. Maybe I’ve just taken this long to recover from it all. I’m sure Jim White of Sky Sports News is still lying down in a dark room with an ice pack on his forehead, simply overcome by the excitement.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, last Friday saw the end of the transfer window for clubs in the UK, meaning that clubs are unable to further add to their squads until January. Well, except if they’re just emergency loans (although not quite sure what really constitutes an emergency in football). Or if the player concerned is not registered to another club. As is often the case, there was a certain amount of last minute rushed deals, where clubs had either decided to leave it late to pick up some bargains, or simply took too long deciding who they really wanted. Spurs under Harry Redknapp were usually a good bet for some wheeler dealings, and despite the former Bournemouth manager no longer being in charge, they continued the trend, making a late grab for Clint Dempsey, and despite trailing him all summer, completing the transfer of French international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the final hours (obviously Brad Friedel, Carlo Cudicini and Heurelho Gomes are not enough for AVB). Since the window “slammed shut” (using the dramatic and somewhat over the top Sky Sports description), there have been various bits of commentary about which teams have done well and which haven’t out of the whole process. It does seem a little daft that teams will leave decisions so late, especially since the season has already been underway two weeks.
I can’t help thinking though that this whole pantomime is more than a little vulgar and rather symptomatic of the modern game. Sky Sports were trailing their coverage of the final hours more than a week before, with a countdown clock showing how long was to go. They now announce on air and on Twitter to say their regular deadline day presenter, Jim White, is in the building, ready for the action, like some heavyweight boxer prowling the ring before it all kicks off. During the final hours, they have regular updates on their big screen totalizer to show how much money has been spent/wasted during the transfer period, how it compares to previous seasons overspending. Tough luck if you wanted a report of actual sport on Friday night, for example the result of England’s latest One Day cricket which just happened to be played that day. No, it’s far more important to get analysis on a particular signing from Dave Bassett, always the wheeler dealer himself, or commentary on it all from the never inspiring Iain Dowie. And after that everyone will be repeating the same shit that’s been talked about the previous hour, adding speculation and drivel, and lots of over excitement about whether a player will sign on the dotted line in time and whether he will have time to pass his medical. Yes of course he will, because some junior doctor will poke a thermometer in the player’s mouth, tell him to go “aaah”, and assuming he doesn’t pass out will sign off his medical as there’s a deadline to hit. Then of course you have the full army of reporters standing outside grounds and training centres throughout the land, complete with a mass of gormless fans milling around pulling faces in the background, bringing excitement to the masses as a Range Rover pulls into the car park with an unidentified footballer sitting in the back. Back to the studio, because there’s an update on one of the three signings they’ve been banging on about for the past hour to say, well, not a lot has happened and the clock is ticking. Meanwhile about twenty transfers have happened in the Football League but they’re not going to tell you about that because frankly they don’t care so neither should you. This it seems, is modern day sport at its finest.
Various questions arise from all of this. Firstly, if there has to be a transfer window at all (and there are plenty of arguments for either scenario which I won’t go into now), why does it close AFTER the season has started? We now get a situation where clubs start the season with incomplete squads. Even if clubs tried their best to get everyone they wanted prior to the start of the season, there’s usually a chain involved, with other clubs not wanting to release their unwanted players until they have new ones in. That is unless you’re Liverpool of course. Secondly, it just reinforces the point that football is becoming less and less about what happens on the pitch, and more about how much money is spent. A club who hasn’t spent vast amounts of money, or dare I say it, has actually got their squad assembled well in advance, is seen as losers in all of this. And this despite many deadline day transfers proving to be a poor decisions, usually by the buying club, with money being wasted quicker than you can say “panic buy”. And finally, to prove further how little the actual football is considered, let’s look at the timing of the transfer window closing on the last two windows. This latest one, a Friday night, with a full fixture list the following day. Players leaving a club despite probably being part of the plans for the following day, so managers (who quite often have little say in the comings and goings) will have their plans disrupted, but will still be expected to get the best from their teams. Still, better than January, where it closed on a Tuesday night when there was a full Football League fixture calendar. Players pulled out of squads two hours before kick off. Ah, but it’s only the Championship and little League One and Two, so who cares about them right?
At least now we can all just forget about it all and concentrate on the football, well until January when the whole charade starts up again. I can hardly wait.