Last week, Star sport reporter James Shield wrote an interesting article where in an interview with Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager laid bare his feelings on the transfer window.
To sum things up, let’s just say the Blades boss isn’t a fan.
Clough’s not alone, of course. Many coaches, Arsene Wenger perhaps the most high-profile, are on record as saying they despise the idea that transfers should only be done between certain dates and that feeling intensifies when Sky Sports News decides that the countdown is on by sticking their clock on the screen and their presenters begin dressing like a lemon sorbet.
Managers and those in the game, especially the ones involved at a lower level than the Premier League, have good reason to express their annoyance at the window.
Panic sets in, the apparent - in a lot of cases vastly exaggerated - need for players boils over and fans get into a flap, worried that they are doomed because their club decided against paying inflated fees and wages for a player they arguably could do without.
Take United for example. On Monday, The Star reported that Clough had handed the Bramall Lane hierarchy a list of players he was interested in. This morning, none of those deals were done, despite ‘substantial’ bids being made.
The club could have upped their offers in pursuit of these unnamed players, but why should they? They calculated their own value and when told what it would cost, they eventually backed away.
Some Blades fans this morning, venting their frustration on various social media platforms, saw this as a backward step; a lack of ambition, they claim, and a decision that could hamper their side’s promotion chances.
Playing devil’s advocate, in a way I can see why they have taken this semi-delirious stance. Quite simply, United fans are desperate to see their side escape League One and yearn for that at any cost.
However, it doesn’t need to happen at any cost. Clough has already signed 11 players for this campaign and I would argue, though the opinion is entirely subjective, that there was no real need to strengthen the squad further.
Of course, if Clough felt differently and the players could be snapped up, well within the club’s budget, then that’s fine, but to throw away what has been a refreshingly frugal approach to finances in a state of panic, doesn’t make sense. Over at Hillsborough, Wednesday did bring someone in, on loan, on the final day - Royston Drenthe, a player with a dubious reputation for questionable professionalism and one wonders if, again, there was any need to make this signing?
Yes, Drenthe could have turned over a new leaf as far as his previous misdemeanours are concerned, but he hasn’t played this season, won’t have had a proper pre-season and his arrival at S6 smacks of adding to the squad for the sake of it.
Owls boss Stuart Gray has built a solid team; hard-working and dedicated. True, they may be light in numbers, but that shouldn’t mean any old player should be brought in to bolster it.
Fans wanted to see more new signings, Stuart Gray wanted to make more but from here, it looks as though the addition has been made in the midst of transfer window-inflicted anxiety, even if the initial deal is only for six months.
Of course, I stand to be completely wrong in this instance - Drenthe may well see this as a last chance to save a career that had promise but has been in a helter skelter of a downward spiral for some time now. He could knuckle down and become another player transformed by the galvanising work that Gray has brought to Wednesday since taking charge last year. It’s a short-term gamble, but a gamble nonetheless.
And it is these types of gambles that the window has dragged into football and it represents a lot of what is wrong with the modern game.
Smaller clubs find themselves having their best assets cherry-picked at the last minute by bullying bigger boys, leaving them with little time to replace players and inevitably having to pay over the odds to do so, if even able.
And on top of that, the rise of social media only serves to further increase the knee-jerk hysteria amongst supporters who seemingly believe that not having an accosted and beleaguered Sky Sports News reporter sticking his head into a new signing’s car window, or watching a long-distance shot of a shadowy, silhouetted new striker apparently undertaking a medical means their club’s transfer dealings have been a failure.
Those who possibly benefit most are agents, whose influence appears to increase year on year. To take an example of that, in the old days when a player was signed by a big club, an interview with the local paper would have probably had him thanking his dad for his encouragement and his under 10s manager for giving him a break. In modern contrast, in the wake of his move from Monaco to Manchester United, Falcao tweeted his thanks to three men flanking him in a picture...his agent and two lawyers.
And, aside from agents, on #DeadlineDay the team who also garner the greatest amount of publicity are Sky Sports themselves. It’s their Christmas night.
I promised myself I would try to stay clear, but for the odd flick over to take in the latest. I couldn’t do it, for, for all of its hype, the circus that is Jim White Day had me mesmerisingly engrossed.
However, it wasn’t for the loudly-delivered, overly-dramatic transfer news - it was to see what would happen next, to the reporters who were forced to deal with members of the public, grotesquely upping the ante with every appearance.
In the past, the odd swear word in a terrace chant would be the height of what Jim and his sidekicks would have to apologise for. Last night saw the appearance of a blow up doll at Villa Park and a purple sex aid placed into the ear of reporter Alan Irwin at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground. Had Sky Sports deadline day extravaganza ‘jumped the shark’? No chance... it’ll be back, bigger and badder in January and plenty of us will watch what is now the sporting equivalent of tuning in to laugh at the ‘odd’ contestants on X Factor.
That’s the transfer window and that, I’m afraid is modern football.