Despite the best efforts of Sky Sports News and claims of the millions being splashed about the market, Transfer Deadline Day in January 2016 felt like a huge damp squib, writes Derek Bilton.
So in the event, the 2016 January transfer window closed with a whimper rather than a bang. The most eye-catching deals on the final day of business were Stoke completing a club-record signing for over £18million and Everton adding a striker for £13.5million. Both were players I’d never previously heard of. Sky tried their best to make the day an event, with the irascible Jim White, mobile phone in hand, forced to earn his wages amid some cringe-worthy scenes on Sky Sports News. Yet despite Jim’s best efforts I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed as I trudged up the stairs not long after midnight.
Gary Lineker once famously declared that transfer deadline day should be made into a Bank Holiday. An interesting concept. But without Harry Redknapp rubbing his hands and talking to the press boys from the window of his car, or Peter Odemwingie driving over 100 miles from Birmingham to London (only for a proposed move to hilariously fall through), deadline days ain’t what they used to be.
The financial analysts were quick to point out that January transfer spending hit a five-year high this year with £175million invested. And that Watford (yes Watford) spent more than the whole of La Liga put together during the month. But it just couldn’t compare to the great windows of the past, such as 2011 when fax machines went into meltdown as £85million was splurged on Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll alone. There is an argument that the legacy of that crazy spending spree in 2011 by Chelsea and Liverpool is still being felt today, and that the inability of Messrs Torres and Carroll to justify even a fraction of that humongous outlay has made big clubs reluctant to ‘go big’ at this time of year.
Indeed it’s significant that spending this January has been dominated by clubs in the bottom half of the table. Clubs hell bent on staying up with the prospect of a new bumper Premier League TV deal on the horizon this summer. It will be a financial feeding frenzy the likes of which football has never seen before, and woe betide any team that doesn’t occupy one of the 20 Premier League spots come the summer.
Incredibly, despite their unparalleled pecuniary muscle, none of the teams occupying the top six places in the Premier League made a move for anyone on deadline day. Fans up and down the land were glued to websites and social media desperate for any action that might get their juices flowing. Action that in the end never materialised. Given the uncertainty surrounding the managerial positions at Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City it maybe shouldn’t have come as such a shock that the top sides chose to keep their wallets in their pockets. And yet you wonder whether Spurs’ decision not to sign a top-class striker to compliment Harry Kane might not come back to haunt them in May?
Yet I guess we could pontificate about the deals that were made and the deals that were missed until the next transfer window opens. For the moment I’m just a bit disenchanted with it all, wondering whether the only people who truly benefit from transfer deadline day are savvy media types creating false drama and football agents desperate to blag as much money from clubs for their clients as is humanely possible.
By Derek Bilton, who you can follow on Twitter @biggravybilton