The 31st of August. Just another day in the football calendar, albeit one without any actual football, but distinguished slightly by the ending of the time period allotted to register new players. Little more than a necessary logistical failsafe, to cross the i’s and dot the t’s and generally make sure all the cumbersome bureaucratic paper work is completed before we exit the first month of the season. Right? WRONG Bitches! For this is Super Awesome Magic Transfer Deadline Day! Woooo! Only the wickedest frickin’ day of the year! Like Christmas mixed with New Year, sprinkled with Easter, only with Jim White – That’s right, JIM WHITE!!! – That bloke you might recognize off Sky Sports News if you watch it enough, PLUS that one who’s going out with Ant & Dec. OMG!!!
Yes, Transfer Deadline Day indeed. The one day of the year when Sky Sports News’ anchors get to pretend they’re rock stars in their own heads whilst shivering, terrified reporters stand around in car parks like idiot beacons, attracting only the dimmest and ugliest people from around the country to swarm around them doing silly things while they report that something’s probably happening in a building quite nearby.
Sky have always been hyperbole whores of course. Never ones to shun bombast for understated subtlety and perspective, but I’d forgotten just how important they considered themselves in the scheme of all this. Very early on it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be as exciting or headline grabbing as last January’s window, with Luka Modric in Malta, Wesley Snejider in Holland, and Manchester City revealing their main interest of the day was making sure Owen Hargreaves reached their medical facility in one piece. This wasn’t going to stop Sky Sports News from making it exciting though. Hell no. Even if this solely involved telling us how exciting it was every 5 minutes.
At some point between the great Robinho & Berbatov window of ‘08 and the infamous Torres & Carroll Christmas of ’11, Sky Sports decided their own reporting of the transfers was almost as important as the transfers themselves. And so gradually the reporting of Deadline Day became less a standard rolling news item and more a one off, high-end entertainment event, complete with its own headline act superstar – Jim White. Yes, THE Jim White (well no, not actually, he plays snooker) who we were told at regular intervals was “on his way” or “in the building” whilst inter-cut with promo cards advertising his evening anchorship featuring his ominous, pouting visage along side Natalie Sawyer. This was even more disconcerting as they were done in the style of a boxing promo card, with both protagonists on either side of the screen between big lettering of their names, which made it look just a little bit like Jim White was going to fight Natalie Sawyer at 8pm, which at least might have gone some way to explaining why they were all treating him like such a big shot.
At one particular high point, SSN even returned from an advert break with footage of Jim walking into the building on his phone, which could have been a brilliant, sophisticated parody of the endlessly recycled unenlightening footage of players wandering in and out of places on their phones they play on Sky hourly, but which I’m pretty sure was merely an actual desperate bit of cannibalized reporting. Sky had gone meta. They were now reporting on their own reporters turning up to do some reporting. When they weren’t trying to hawk us their new mobile SkyGo service that is.
So excited were they all getting at their own excitement that Georgie Thompson – preceding the mighty White and sporting the hair of a Lion, – on noticing that there weren’t nearly enough local idiots wandering outside of Eastlands annoying Vinny O’Connor like there were at Melwood and the Britannia, began to actually encourage people watching to “get down to Eastlands and support him.” Yes, support a reporter. Perhaps with an I Heart Vinny banner? Or maybe she was imagining swarms of diehards trotting down in solidarity to thank Ol’ Vin for his years of top class reporting. “I was there back in ’03 when you covered the signing of Robbie Fowler. Fantastic reporting that, I just want you to know how much that meant to me, lad. Can you sign this?”
The madness of Queen Georgie continued as an hour later she casually, and possibly accidentally, dropped the bombshell that she was “for sale, but it’ll cost you.” Which was presumably received with relish by the multi-millionaire footballers watching (whose tweets telling us they were watching were being read out frequently to boost Sky’s already bulging self importance and fill the gap in lieu of any actual news) but probably came as quite a surprise to Ant and/or Dec.
Eventually, at about nine, after around eighteen hours of telling us exciting things were happening, some exciting things started actually happening. These were not, unfortunately, of the record breaking exciting variety, and focused mainly on how long it would take Peter Crouch to pass a medical test designed for a normal man, what number Craig Bellamy would wear in his second stint at Liverpool and whether Arteta and Benayoun would make it in time to complete their last minute (read last couple of hours) deals at Arsenal. They obviously would, but Sky’d be damned if this would dampen the hyperbole.
At one point earlier in the day we’d been promised “exciting news if you’re a Manchester United fan after the break” which was then bafflingly never returned to ever again, and as the day drew to a close someone desperately made up a rumor about Kaka to Spurs, which gave us a good forty minutes of excited discussion about how crazy this all was, and typical of crazy ol’ deadline day, before Harry Redknapp, who’d only left his car once in 36 hours and only then to go to the loo, appeared from his car window (naturally) to laugh it off. Before presumably driving out of shot and kicking himself for not thinking of it first.
As we finally reached the tortuous end of this ridiculous day, the drama having been wrenched up even higher in the final hours by intermittent shots of Big Ben coupled with Sky’s mandatory serving of inappropriately aggressive music, the camera cut to black and fireworks – yes, f***ing FIREWORKS! – filled the screen to announce the end of the window.
Flying ninja Jesus on a bicycle. If there was ever a good argument for scrapping the Transfer Window it’s Sky’s coverage of it’s own coverage of Deadline Day. You know they’d have this on pay-per-view if they could get the figures.
I’m off to sit at my desk in a suit pretending to be Jim White. Beats playing football.
You can follow Oscar on Twitter here, Twitter/oscarpyejeary or you can follow him around in real life, but don’t expect him to buy you a pint.