The head of the League Manager’s Association, Richard Bevan, recently said the transfer window system should be scrapped as “it doesn’t create stability, it doesn’t create a level playing field.” It’s a viewpoint which appears to be shared across the English Premier and Football Leagues and is backed up by simply observing the incredible circus that was the closing hours of yesterday’s January window. However for the fans, it can provide a second ‘start of the season’ feeling, when all mistakes can be erased with just one new record signing. It is a bank holiday in the middle of winter, which should be celebrated with feasts and the burning of ex-star shirts.
For Sky Sports News it is a combination of Black Friday and Christmas. For a day they become the centre of the football world in England, as their army of round-faced, pale men, hang around empty parking lots hoping to get a glimpse of a tinted-windowed sports car, which can be breathlessly reported as “something possibly happening”. Half the time they appear to have just arrived at some different empty parking lot, desperately trying to work out which one from the local dialect, while Jim White barks orders into their ear.
If they are lucky enough to be stationed at one of the clubs who “possibly does something”, a nation hangs off their every word as they stand, pantomime like (they’re behind you!), in front of a growing mob that cheers the slightest mention of their club and any player who may, or may not, turn up there.
There’s also the roaming armchair pundit who takes this day of days to finally summon the courage, visit his local ground and get his opinion on the latest happenings, on air:
“What do you think of the news that Tuncay is leaving?”
“Well, you know, I wish ‘im the best. What can you do?”
Bryan Swanson is back in the studio, giddily adding up the day’s net spend, as though it will all be emptied into an Olympic-sized pool for him to crawl through. In another corner, Tony Cascarino keeps coming back to the mantra “big men, up top”, perhaps channeling messages from The Other Side (or Wolverhampton). Next to him Iain Dowie appears frozen in an acute moment of self-awareness that he no longer manages football teams, just commentates on rumours that some of them might buy, or sell players.
Transfer deadline day is a celebration of the hype and speculation that is such an engrained part of modern-day English football. It truly is the end of the holiday season, after which fans can reflect on whether their club has been naughty or nice. A time to regain hope in a disappointing season, or wonder if they kept the receipt for Andy Reid. As unstable and damaging as it may be for the majority of clubs and managers, the transfer deadline day is one last extravagance purely for the fans. Tomorrow we resolve to go on a diet, until the next one.