Monday 23 April 2018

Goodbye and good riddance to pointless January sales

Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

THANK GOD that's over. It was a month which, for many, started with a hangover, included water shortages, traffic chaos, being hit by snowballs, the most depressing day of the year, Charlie Bird's American Year, falling on ice and some flooding.

Then, just as people were starting to cheer up a little, it ended with wage slips which showed the full effect of the budget.

Goodbye January, and good riddance.

Today, the calendar says it's the beginning of February but football plays by its own rules. As a sport that can spend millions in the midst of a global recession and increase ticket prices for those who have less money in their pockets, it's hardly surprising that the January Transfer Window is closing on the first day of February. Fax machines and club chairman, apparently, don't work on Sundays.

Just one more day to get through before one of the sport's most irritating annual events comes to an end (completing the podium is the annual March reference to Fergie's "mind games" and April's "real six-pointers").

In the same way that some noble folk abstain from drink in January to make up for the Christmas excess, it might be time to apply the same criteria to asking managers regarding their transfer policies.

"I'd be surprised if we signed anyone, very surprised," said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp on January 21 after his team lost to Liverpool.


"We've been talking about him for nearly two weeks and when we heard West Ham were interested we made our move," said Redknapp a week later in reference to Eidur Gudjohnsen who they then signed on loan until the end of the season.

"We're keen to bring him back if the deal is good for everybody," added Redknapp on Friday speaking about Portsmouth defender Younes Kaboul while the well-beaten path from Portsmouth to Tottenham could also have goalkeeper Asmir Begovic on it.

Given his initial comments, Redknapp must be thoroughly stunned by all of the activity around White Hart Lane while his praise of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane for their ability on the training ground and attitude also has the hallmarks of an estate agent trying to sell a property in a recession.

If West Ham, Sunderland, Birmingham or Aston Villa can stump up the cash for either, their feet won't touch the ground.

That said, it's not Redknapp's job to be open with everybody about his plans unless it suits him or the club and the wheeler-dealer persona often clouds his undoubted ability to bring the club to a better state than he found them.

Redknapp isn't the only manager to say one thing in public and do something else in private but it's difficult to blame managers for taking such a route when, for the past month, they have had to put up with comments about who they "must" buy in order to help their title/Champions League/staying up hopes.

One moment, Arsene Wenger will be asked whether his team can achieve 100 goals in the Premier League season. Comments will be devoted to their free-flowing brand of football and their ability to create goals out of nothing. The next minute, an ex-pro is criticising him for not buying an imposing striker. Quite how they think a six-foot-plus front man would have contributed against Manchester United's juggernaut yesterday probably won't be recorded.

At various stages today, Sky Sports News' yellow ticker will flicker with breaking news that a player has been spotted at another team's training ground or that he has changed his ringtone to 'Blue Moon' making him a certainty to sign for Manchester City.

Internet forums will buzz with the news from a club insider's brother's friend about an unlikely arrival and, to allay any scepticism, they will attach the word 'FACT!' (the capital letters and exclamation marks add a layer of credibility).

Transfer talk has always been a mainstay of conversation but it's not just that it is now condensed into a 31-day period that it makes so little sense, it is also damaging clubs that it originally sought to protect.

UEFA's theory behind introducing the transfer window was that smaller clubs wouldn't have players prised away at a vital part of the season but much like the golden goal experiment -- which produced more defensive than attacking play -- it has proved to be the opposite case.

Clubs such as Crystal Palace find themselves millions in debt but, rather than being able to offload a player of Victor Moses' value and quality at any point of the year, they have to wait until January to recoup a fee. At that point, buying clubs interested in their players know that they can't afford to turn down any decent offer and a player in whom they have invested years of training and wages walks away for less than he's worth.

It's the same story in the Premier League where Hull City have the Catch 22 scenario of weakening their squad by selling players or risking further damaging their finances by keeping hold of them, losing their relegation battle and trying to pay Premier League wages as a Championship club.

It's a road that has already been travelled by Leeds, Southampton and Charlton while Portsmouth look to have booked a first-class ticket for next season. The only good news for Avram Grant and Portsmouth is that, by tomorrow, they can ignore any calls coming from White Hart Lane.

Irish Independent

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