Transfer window only makes matters worse
Football’s transfer window has long been a thing of puzzlement, particularly to those who do what you’d probably call a normal job.
If we want to move on, we hand in our notice once we’ve established a new career path or a new employer and, a month later, take a new route to work.
Rarely are there bidding wars. Rarely are there deliberate acts aimed at disrupting either employee or employer. And rarely are their middle men involved, raking their bit off the top. The media isn’t usually involved either.
And, fortunately for me, you and Mr Bloggs, there are no set times of the year when we can change jobs. Aside from the bit where footballers earn squillions, aren’t we lucky?
The transfer windows – there’s one in the summer and one just after Christmas – seem to do funny things to some football managers.
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Maybe sitting on their hands, refused permission to touch the pile of cash sitting in front of them, makes them so jumpy until the time comes when they can wave a contract that isn’t supposedly worth the paper it’s written on, in front of all and sundry, in order to make their team a better one.
Some buy as soon as the window is open, some keep their powder dry, waiting, prowling the market, then, when they’ve seen their target, they sit, patiently, until the selling club shows signs of weakness. When the time is right, he pounces, pen and paper and, of course, the famous dotted line, in hand.
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The prey is taken and he is able to show it off to the world, usually with a club scarf waving above its head as a sign that it has accepted a new owner.
It’s a difficult job: you have to handle the budget properly and you absolutely must get it right, because every football supporter expects the signings to be perfect. There is no room for error.
Nigel Worthington always used to say it was the most difficult part of the job.
He got it right with the likes of Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin, but he wasn’t so lucky with others – Jason Jarrett springs to mind immediately.
There are some more famous ones; Steve Daley went from Wolves to Manchester City in 1979 for �1.4m, Justin Fashanu from Norwich to Nottingham Forest in 1981 – both were costly failures. There were few reasons to suggest they would be – both had been good players.
It just didn’t work out. It is such a difficult thing to get right – and the transfer windows only make it more difficult. Instead of allowing managers time, they force them into action when the market opens, then, when they begin to panic, they force them into over-hasty decisions before it closes.
No manager is immune – ask Sir Alex Ferguson, who has seen millions go down the drain on big signings which just haven’t worked.
The problem is, there is no foolproof method to the madness. Young and hungry or older and more experienced? Home grown or foreign, cheap risks, expensive risks?
And how many signings are enough, and how many is too many?
Take, for example, Queens Park Rangers managers Mark Hughes, whose signing policy appears to be fairly simple: “He’s well known, sign him.”
Park Ji-sung, Robert Green, Ricardo Carvalho, Andy Johnson, Ryan Nelsen, Michael Dawson. They all have one thing in common – their careers are not on a upward curve. They have decent CVs, but you buy today, not yesterday.
Hughes’ transfer dealings make me wonder whether or not QPR can survive this year. And if they do, what about next summer? Will he have to start again when the likes of Johnson get too old?
I’m not suggesting for one minute that I believe Chris Hughton has got it spot on, but surely Robert Snodgrass, Jacob Butterfield and Steven Whittaker are going up in the world, even if Michael Turner is perhaps going sideways.
Javier Garrido adds experience, but is a good age at 27, as does Sebastien Bassong – a player who appears to be looking for a new, long-term challenge after losing his way at Spurs.
The thing is, there is no right or wrong way of doing it. But because of that very difficulty, it makes you wonder why football’s authorities don’t actually take away the risk – which also, of course, means the financial high stakes that has caused so many problems for an increasing number of clubs – and change the transfer window system so that it falls a little closer into line with the way the rest of the world works.