It’s transfer deadline day, that strange combination of inertia and BIG BIG news, as clubs seek to fine tune their squads before the curtain draws and the window stays shut until the start of January. But will anything actually happen? The media are hoping that something will – several media outlets have someone sitting at a desk in their office, taking text messages and emails from people that may or may not have seen footballers sneaking through the gates of grounds that would normally be considered to be away grounds or meeting people shady people in dark glasses at motorway service stations.
All eyes, predictably, will be on the City of Manchester Stadium, in the hope that Manchester City will not be able resist the temptation to splurge another twenty millions pounds on somebody or other, but this seems unlikely to happen. The arrival of Joleon Lescott from Everton last week seems likely to put paid to that. This won’t, however, stop the rumours, and that is the devil in the detail. Transfer deadline day is, ultimately, a media creation which keeps people refreshing on their websites throughout the day and keeps people gossiping. It’s not even as if the clubs themselves like it. After all, the hunters become the hunted on a day like today and if Manchester United can lose Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool can lose Xabi Alonso during the summer, then no-one is too big to be affected.
Are there, then, any clubs that may decide that one or two new acquisitions may help them out? Everton would seem to be the prime contenders, with £22m burning a hole in the their pocket and a Lescott-shaped gap in their defence. It seems unlikely, however, that they will make a big, decisive signing. For one thing, the cost of players grows on transfer deadline, with everybody fully aware of the fact that clubs do not have time to consider how much they are going to pay for a player. Also, transfer negotiations tend to be more protracted affairs than they used to be – spending serious money on a day like today is the equivalent of running into HMV at 5.00 on a Saturday afternoon knowing that you have to buy a DVD or a CD, but not really knowing which one to buy.
On such a day, however, we can usually rely on Harry Redknapp. The Premier League’s nearest equivalent to Derek Trotter may be sitting at the top of the Premier League after a start to the season that most Spurs supporters wouldn’t have even dared to dream of, but that doesn’t appear to be stopping him from thinking that bringing Niko Crancjar, Martin Petrov and David James to White Hart Lane. Sky Sports News (who really come into their own on a day like today) are reporting that Redknapp wants to sign all three for Spurs, but that the Spurs chairman Daniel Levy (who could be forgiven for carrying the facial expression of a death row inmate today) is reported to have stepped in and told Redknapp that James is too old to go to White Hart Lane.
And that’s how easy it is to get sucked into the fake drama of it all. Never mind the logistical problems of bringing a new player into a football club, checking his fitness, agreeing the terms of his contract and a price with the selling club in the space of eight hours. Once the madness has started, everybody becomes reduced to a list of names with “From” and “To” written at the top of it, and the finer details of the game take, as they s often do in this day and age, a back seat. We’ll leave the final word on the subject to the Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, who, as you have have guessed, is hardly a fan of the current system:
I hate it with a passion. Artificially created excitement for deals that could have been completed a month ago in time for the start of the season. Teams are thrown into turmoil with no chance to properly bed in players and then as soon as it shuts, four months of speculation and unsettling of players till the next one. If they want a transfer window, confine it to June and July only with only emergency loan deals allowed outside of that. Otherwise, scrap the damn thing and get back to letting teams perform their business in an orderly fashion.
But for the raising of an eyebrow at the idea that football clubs could ever be considered capable of conducting anything in an “orderly fashion”, it’s difficult to argue that O’Neill couldn’t be onto something, there.