London- It’s that time of year again folks … so who’s excited? Are you ready for the excitable sports reporters wearing yellow? Ready to see hordes of football supporters hanging around training grounds waiting to see a glimpse of a new signing or making inappropriate signs in the background shot of camera?
I know I can’t wait to see another shot of our ’Arry hanging out of his car window telling reporters about his “triffick” new signing, either. Transfer deadline day for all of us has become a staple part of our traditional footballing diet, where we sit in front of a TV screen hoping that yellow bar at the bottom of our screen tells us about a new record signing for our club and that the “missing link” to our team’s ambitions for the season has been snapped up in the nick of time.
It is an exciting, symbolic day for the fans, which gives them an indication of their respective football club’s strengths and weaknesses before embarking on another season of hope.
For us players it is a little bit different. Imagine spending your summer where every time you switch on the TV, read the newspaper or even check your social media there’s a different, more “exciting”, more expensive player being linked to your position in the team, ready to take your job, maybe forcing you to move on, finding not only a new club but a new home for your family.
Imagine getting a call two days before the transfer window closes and being told your time at the club is up, you need to find a new job and you’re not needed any more. You are now dependent on your agent to conjure up a minor miracle. And, oh, he’s got about 48 hours to do it.
Then you turn to your wife and kids and break the news that their lives – schools, friends, home – are about to be turned upside down and all you can do is hope that the unknown location of your new club enables you and your family to settle down as quickly and smoothly as possible.
And then you’re sitting in a hotel room at 11.30pm praying that the paperwork has been completed and processed in time for you to sign a contract that not only affects your playing career but the lives of all of those around you who you support and care for. If you miss that deadline by a minute your life is completely up in the air and you have no idea what to say to your loved ones.
(Not so) funnily enough, I have been through all of those situations at one point or another throughout my career and trust me, the fear, paranoia and trepidation an impending deadline day can bring affects players, families and dressing rooms up and down this country. At this time every year as players leave the morning training session to go home, the in-joke between us always is: “Keep that phone on!” or: “Maybe see you tomorrow,” because we’re all wary of the fact that any one of our lives could dramatically be changed by just a call or email.
You would think that in today’s multimillion-pound football industry every transfer is planned meticulously and worked on for days and weeks on end but in reality, as the deadline approaches and teams are searching for plan F, G or H in their hunt for a position rather than A, B or C, transfer deals can be reached in a matter of minutes, leaving that player in question in a situation that he could never have foreseen.
In recent weeks, a lot has been made of the proposal of the transfer window closing before the start of the season. I completely agree that if all clubs throughout Europe were to adhere to an agreed earlier date before the start of the competitive season it would be beneficial to managers, players, clubs and even supporters.
For all of the reasons I have listed above I know that at every football club there are players who have had their “heads turned” by bigger clubs with huge, life-changing financial incentives but at the same time are asked to focus on the task in hand at their football club at the start of a season. There are also players playing competitive matches knowing that their football club is in negotiations with another player who is in line to replace them in the squad and in turn force them out. There are players who are even subconsciously worried about injury while playing in a competitive match and then wrecking their chances of a move to a bigger club. This situation is not fair to managers trying to win games, team-mates who want to do well or supporters who pay their hard-earned cash to watch their heroes at least give 100% to win a game of football.
Now in a perfect world we say: “These are professionals who should do the job they are asked to.” I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment except that football – like any industry – does not operate in a perfect world.
This is still a game played by people, with families, with ambitions for what is a short career, with different personalities and different motivations. It is impossible to guarantee the focus of every member of a squad in competitive matches when a huge transfer cloud hangs above them. For these reasons it’s time to close shop that little bit earlier.
The Guardian Sport