A week after celebrating the birthdays of Jesus Christ and Chris Kamara, the world of football turns its attention to the grand unveiling of yet another highly anticipated transfer window.
The month of January is filled with endless exciting possibilities, ranging from the arrival of new faces to the departure of deadwood. But is this a period that benefits anyone other than the fans themselves? Would a return to the ‘open all hours’ transfer arrangement really signal an improvement to the beautiful game?
In many ways the transfer window only serves to devalue the media industry, which appears only too willing to disregard the facts in search of an alluring story. The rumour mill goes into overdrive as speculation begins to overshadow events on the pitch and managers grow increasingly weary of questions regarding potential comings and goings.
It’s essentially a circus show, built upon numerous games of Chinese whispers that usually originate from a bored teenager’s bedroom. Sure we’ve had some laughs – who can forget the story of Ryan Babel desperately trying to escape Merseyside in his helicopter – but you get the impression the whole process will soon escalate to a surreal level of infuriating chaos.
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I do believe the transfer window enhances the experience of supporting a football club; the marriage of excitement and fear is an incredibly unique feeling associated with the sport. But let’s face it, most fans end up disappointed with their team’s dealings in the market and there’s something very British about that.
‘Deadline Day’ may have overtaken ‘Cup Final Day’ in terms of importance and prestige among the modern day fan, especially since bank accounts have been bolstered by foreign investment, but perhaps we would still be able enjoy the same, if slightly subdued, thrill all year around if the window were to be abolished.
The vast majority of managers would undoubtedly approve such a decision, especially former Nottingham Forest boss Sean O’Driscoll, who was sacked just hours after a 4-2 win against Leeds United, with the club a mere point from the play-off positions. It has since come to light that the impending transfer window essentially forced the club’s Kuwaiti owners into action.
“With the January transfer window approaching, we feel it’s the right time to make a change. We are looking to bring in an ambitious manager with Premier League experience.” (Telegraph)
Unfortunately this is an increasingly familiar tale, with Blackburn’s ever-popular owners, The Venky’s, also ejecting Henning Berg after less than eight weeks in charge. The transfer window provides the perfect excuse to remove an ailing or disliked manager, with their replacement unlikely to succeed without the opportunity to bring in their own reinforcements.
Steve Coppell, director of football at Crawley Town, has repeatedly declared he “cannot see the logic in a transfer window”. What was once introduced to create stability and a level playing field has instead had the exact opposite effect. The performances of unhappy players suffer as they try to engineer a move away via their medalling agents, whose eyeballs turn to dollar signs as they sense an imminent payday.
As the window reaches its conclusion, transfer fees and wage bills soar skywards as clubs conclude more and more deals fuelled by panic. Just how many costly mistakes have been made in the past? During last January’s deadline day QPR spent the best part of £10m on the unreliable Djibril Cisse and the injury-prone Bobby Zamora. The transfer window certainly has a lot to answer for when the abysmal state of football’s finances are discussed.
However, the window does at least restrict the Premier league’s big boys from buying their way out of trouble. It goes without saying that the likes of Manchester City, QPR and Liverpool would have spent a pretty penny given the chance over the past few months. Speaking of Liverpool, it’s incredibly likely that we wouldn’t have witnessed the emergence of Raheem Sterling, had Brendan Rodgers been allowed to quench his thirst for more experienced individuals.
Managers nowadays have to rely on their coaching methods, motivation tactics and man-management skills. If nothing else, the strict rules have helped expose those clearly not cut out for a role at the helm of a football club. Managers of lower league clubs will have once embraced the security of the window, enabling them to hold onto their prize assets. However, in times of financial hardship, they are also restricted from obtaining their easiest and most profitable source of income, which places their existence in jeopardy.
Perhaps the answer is to allow different rules across the four divisions in the Football League. Teams in the Championship could have an extra month in December to help combat an increased number of games, while teams in League One and Two could enjoy flexible circumstances if they had exhausted other options. Loan transfers were once the answer, but they’ve become so complicated and expensive – what with fees and wage contributions – that few can afford it.
Roberto Martinez hit the nail firmly on the head when he suggested that the transfer window should not overlap the start or middle of the season. There is certainly an argument to suggest it is an unnecessary distraction for both managers and their players.
“I have expressed many times that I don’t agree with the transfer window going on while there are official games. It happens everywhere, it gives you uncertainty and I don’t think that helps the game. The players are footballers but they are human beings.” (Liverpool Daily Post)
I guess public opinion will depend solely on their own club’s current situation. The likes of Manchester United and Everton would be quite happy to continue as normal whereas Newcastle and Arsenal will be desperate to get their hands dirty. There simply isn’t a deal that will please everyone. Except Sky Sports of course, who will be busy dusting off Jim White for another round of sensationalised reporting.