D3D4 Walsall Correspondent Darren Young takes a look the problems caused by a transfer window “slamming” shut long after the domestic season has started…
Has Pre-Season Gone Out Of The Window?
Isn’t pre-season great? These few weeks of playing meaningless matches as clubs prepare and get their squads ready for the real thing.
Also known as August.
It’s not the clubs’ fault, nor the Premier League or EFL. It’s the transfer window’s fault because until it’s firmly slammed shut, everything that goes before it has an unreal feeling like shadow boxing, WWF or an exhibition tennis match at The Albert Hall.
Of course, the window doesn’t actually slam shut at all. If you believe the yellow-tied one on Sky Sports News or take any notice of the New Years’ Eve style countdown clock then you’d think it might but the truth is that it’s closing drags on longer than it took one Walsall fan to make an eleven-mile trip to Portsmouth.
Firstly, there is all of June, July and August when we go through the various phases of silliness to speculation to ridiculous – and ultimately fruitless – hope and finally reality. When our teams say they are ‘talking to lots of targets’ which I suppose is still technically true if the player says ‘hello’ and then hangs up when they find out who the unknown number belongs to.
This year has been a little different of course, thanks to our friends over in Paris; who have seemingly crossed so far over the FFP line that UEFA are bringing in extra assistant referees to stand behind the stadium, and their insistence on creating a market where a zero now has to be added to every transfer fee and wage demand.
Then there is the actual deadline day (you’ll now it because it always comes and goes with one of the following happening; Harry Redknapp winding his window down, Peter Crouch being photographed through an office window, Peter Odemwingie hanging around outside a London ground or someone holding up a sex toy behind a reporter’s head).
It’s a long, drawn out spectacle that gets more underwhelming every window although with so much money swilling around at the top of the game, maybe that trend is about to reverse.
But anyone who tells you that it ends at midnight will also be telling you that full backs are really worth fifty million. Some deals are still going through well after the clock strikes twelve as fax machines (now only used in football on transfer deadline day) slowly whir into action and club officials who have had since the end of the previous season to sign players wait until eleven thirty-six to make an offer (eleven forty-seven if they are Daniel Levy).
All so that on September first, hostilities can finally begin properly and we all know what our first XI will actually look like. Which is kind of the problem.
Let me use my own club, Walsall, as an example. Our pre-season has gone pretty well with a win, draw and a smaller loss than expected. We did our defensive ‘business early’ to jump on a bandwagon but there is still much work to be done further afield before the proper action starts.
What happens between how and the last bong (yeah, right) of the hastily set up Sky clock will determine how the season will pan out. There are several possible scenarios:
- Troy Deeney stays at Watford and Walsall stick with that they have and loiter in mid-table at best
- Troy Deeney leaves Watford in a big transfer to a PL team that can’t win the title (thirteen of them) or one who can’t win it again (Leicester) and Walsall spend the enormous windfall from the sell-on clause on two new strikers who fire them into the top six
- Troy Deeney does the same as 2) but the owner pockets all the cash with the same outcome as 1)
But what if Troy Deeney takes the 11:59 to West Ham? Or somewhere even further afield? What if the Vicarage Road fax machine is playing up and it doesn’t get registered until nearly one o’clock in the morning?
What are Walsall supposed to do with circa. £5m at one o’clock in the morning? On September 1st? Even Peter Crouch will have sloped off by then and Harry’s Range Rover window will itself have slammed shut.
Because that kind of money – enough this season to buy a whole Chelsea loanee or roughly half of a Championship one season wonder – is absolutely no use at all to a club like Walsall at one o’clock in the morning the day after transfer deadline day.
Wait until January? They might be in the bottom four by then. Playing catch up and with most of their early season hopes in tatters. The owner might as well keep it for all the good it will do the club.
It would be like being asked to do supermarket sweep at ASDA at five past four on a Sunday afternoon.
And that’s my point and why I support the EFL and several PL clubs in wanting our (and by our I mean the English Premier and Football League) window to shut early; before a ball is kicked.
True, it will stop Burnley beating an all-at-sea Chelsea on opening day because the champions would have assembled a squad, and team, earlier and not still be experimenting in mid-August.
It will also allow the likes of Barcelona to nip in at the last minute and throw someone’s season into chaos by taking a club’s best player (usually identifiable as the one that’s developed a bad back that lasts right through until their unveiling at the Camp Nou.
But more importantly it will cut out the phoney August war, let supporters of all clubs (but especially lower league ones) see their side kick off with a full complement of players and know where they stand from the get-go. So, let’s have an early shut off and make sure all transfers into English clubs are done early in future.
You know it makes sense. Troy.