- Premier League
Transfer deadline day is ridiculous - but we love it
Christmas comes but once a year, unless you are Jim White. Sky's excitable transfer news specialist bursts into action today for his twice-yearly orgy of rumours, sightings, done deals and interviews of Harry Redknapp through the window of his Range Rover.
The tropes of Transfer Deadline Day are now endearingly familiar: so much so that coverage has become a knowing nod to itself. Some time around the turn of the last decade, Sky Sports became self-aware. Jim White began wearing his loud yellow tie in tribute to his wearing a loud yellow tie. Rumours were, if not exactly reported as fact, certainly given room to breathe, shall we say.
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Where reporters once went to Stoke City to bring news of a "potentially record-breaking bid for Lee Cattermole", they now travelled in the prior knowledge that they were looking at 13 hours of being bullied by a mob of feral youths for the entertainment of the viewer at home. By now, everyone knows what they're in for on deadline day, and everyone likes it very much.
We have all heard one story too many about Ronaldo's agent's wife having been seen at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport to take anything too seriously, but we enjoy the dance all the same. Similarly, the pleasure of learning about a Guatemalan utility man who has been identified by Harry as a "triffic little player", and becoming an instant expert via a hastily cobbled-together graphic that explains that the player's registration is jointly owned by Johnson's New Girls Bogota and Chiquita Bananas, so there may be complications getting the paperwork through in the NEXT NINE MINUTES, not least because the lad may not even actually exist. Well, the thrill never fades.
Transfer deadline day has become such a highlight of the football calendar that it rivals the actual football itself. Given the hegemony of the Premier League's wealthy few, most of the clubs are not going to win anything, but signing an exciting player feels like a trophy.
While you can't guarantee a good time on the pitch, deadline day never fails. In terms of drama, it has got the lot: tension, a ticking clock, intrigue involving a cast of people who may not exactly be crooks but aren't exactly not crooks either.
It gave sport one of its great tragic-comedies in 2013, when Peter Odemwingie drove to Loftus Road to sign for QPR, a move that would have worked out perfectly had it not been for the small detail that QPR did not want to sign Peter Odemwingie. That, my friends, is entertainment.
For those few hours of anticipation and information overload today, we are all children again. We dream, we hope, we believe. Maybe the club really has unearthed the next Lionel Messi on the cheap. Maybe Peter Crouch had got a few more goals in him. He's always done a job, hasn't he, Crouchy?
Perhaps this really finally will be the year that we get to see Juan Román Riquelme in the Premier League. Maybe this Greek central defender really is the missing piece of the jigsaw. After watching him for six games, it will turn out that he's more like the Missing Link back to pre-human days, but for now: we can hope.
Despite the huge sums involved, there's still a satisfying sense of total disarray. If football was not designed and run by men, transfer deadline day would not exist. Women would no way be idiotic enough to let everything pile up until the last moment, and then try to do a 48-hour medical on some random bloke in less than an hour while simultaneously driving him up the M6 at 100mph in an Addison Lee, shouting numbers down the phone at a mysterious fixer in Lisbon. None of it makes any sense. No other business could be run in this way.
The transfer window has progressed from a perfectly sensible idea - don't let the rich teams buy up all the good players on an ad hoc basis later in the season - into a gloriously madcap scramble. They should certainly extend it to include managers: clubs would only be allowed to sack a gaffer during a short window of time, which would (a) give coaches more than a few games to make a mark and (b) lead to some awesome poker games as clubs held out to see who was available in August and January until the very last moment before ditching their hapless manager. Fun.
How simple life must be for the other 10 months of the year. If only all the constant demands and bills and work and decisions and stresses could be compacted into little windows of time every few months. Boss on your case? Tell them to get back to you in January. Gas bills piling up? Tell the nice call centre person you'll see them right in August. Football people have got it sussed: once again, football is proven to be totally better than real life. We need a life window, with an expanded role for Jim White.
Alan Tyers writes for the Daily Telegraph, ESPNcricinfo and is the author of six books, the most recent of which is 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects'