After weeks of bar room speculation, rumour, counter-rumour and acres of made-up porkies in the press it’s finally here. The gloriously-insane last minute horse trading known to one and all as transfer deadline day.
Since the twice-yearly windows were introduced to Britain in 2002 Sky Sports News have made transfer deadline day a carnival of relentless arseplop that hypnotises the unemployed with flashing sidebars and garish graphics and somehow manages to convince every supporter that their club’s signature of Gary Cahill is increasingly imminent.
By eleven o’clock tonight, when all bets are off, it is estimated that anchorman Jim White and his team will have regurgitated close to a thousand complete whoppers to a captivated audience all desperate for any activity to occur, if only to legitimize them taking the day off work and eating Jaffa Cakes in their pants.
Inevitably the day ends in a dribble of anti-climax as Jim and the boys pore over a Watford reserve moving to Cheltenham Town on a one-month loan deal.
As always there will be a gorgeous female presenter happily showing off a third of her funbags to distract the viewers from the fact that absolutely nothing is happening aside from an early morning clip of ‘Arry Redknapp whirring down his car window at the entrance to Spurs’ training ground and claiming that another club’s player is ‘triffic’. This will be repeated ad nauseum throughout the day until the viewer ends up looking for anything new or interesting to spot. Such as, is that a brown envelope on the passenger seat or his sandwiches? It is categorically his sandwiches.
Another key aspect of the day ahead is the regular appearances in the studio of the ‘in the know’ journalist, an intensely dislikeable individual, who makes a point of parading his numerous mobile phones in front of him to illustrate to everybody just how many contacts he has in the game. It’s an act that on television suggests importance but if done down the pub would scream out ‘massive twat’.
The show has more padding than Tara Palmer-Tomkinson in a sumo suit and I, like millions of others, adore it.
Here are some highlights from its brief but chaotic history.
2004 – Rooney has two medicals
Its late afternoon and the media go into a frenzy of confusion as the eighteen year old fresh-faced geriatric is escorted into his second medical of the day. Conspiracy theorists begin to speculate whether United have discovered they’ve just spunked £25m on an orang-utan during their first series of tests. Perhaps the doctor shaved off some chest hair to attach the heart-rate pads only to find yet more hair beneath?
Thankfully the nation emits a sigh of collective relief as the second medical is merely a formality and the madness can begin.
One wise sage contacts the Guardian online and claims that the Rooney signing is one of desperation and that Ferguson is losing the plot. ‘He won everything with home grown talent and now he has none of that left’ he states, conveniently forgetting Scholes, Giggs, the Nevilles, Wes Brown….
Everton look to parlay their windfall onto Benni McCarthy from Porto which ultimately fails. As does their last minute attempt to sign Djimi Traore from across Stanley Park.
The story broke from nowhere and made as little sense then as it does now.
2005 – Blades of Glory part one. Owen joins Newcastle
What is it with Newcastle United and helicopters? First Kevin Keegan ascends to the skies from the centre circle like a permed departing messiah in 1984 then, a decade on, all the talk is not about how the Toon have somehow lured a £16m superstar away from the Bernabeu but rather that the club have agreed to foot the bill for little Michael Owen to fly to and from training every day from his North-West home. Ironically a few seasons later, after the man Liam Gallagher claimed looked suspiciously like ‘trainee CID’ proved to be a St James’ Park flop each inhabitant of the Geordie nation would have gladly flown him personally to his new residence on Old Trafford’s bench.
2006 – Pardew pulls two stunners
When SSN officially encountered its first meltdown. The years of hyperbole and constant shouting that preceded this surreal day amounted to a series of meaningless drills. This was code red.
The story broke from nowhere and made as little sense then as it does now. This wasn’t Keegan waltzing into a hastily-arranged Southampton press conference in 1980. This was Pele and Maradona declaring they’re forming a folk duo and planned on touring the provincial backwaters of Somerset. This was Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts pledging to perform local rep in Scarborough.
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano looked suitably bemused to be at Upton Park. They held the scarves above their heads pitchside like a fatherless man being handed a baby. Meanwhile Alan Pardew beamed with the same giddy bewilderment as an ugly old bloke down the Dog and Duck being approached by two porn stars.
Looking back it’s a wonder poor Jim White didn’t suffer a coronary. Looking back its noticeable how often the word ‘undisclosed’ appears in the transfer documents. Looking back the whole shambolic scenario is as bizarre today as is was five years ago.
2008 – A Bulgarian is kidnapped so City go samba
It remains – it will always remain – one of the most significant and astonishing weeks in British football. Just days before the window was due to close for the summer a group of Abu Dhabi investors, led by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, purchased Manchester City and, at a stroke, made them the richest club in the world. I still vividly recall an interview on Radio 5Live with an associate of the family who said, ‘You have to think beyond money. Money is no longer a relevant concept’.
To this day no-one is quite sure where Babel went last September 1st
The rumour mills duly spun into hyper drive as it was reported that City were planning a world-class marquee name to make an immediate statement of intent. The player on everyone’s lips was Spurs’ Dimitar Berbatov. £30m. In the bag.
The day began at a feverish pace and didn’t let up until midnight. Along the way it developed more twists and turns than a John Le Carre bestseller as an aging knight of the realm sped to Manchester airport to intercept the suave Bulgarian and snatch him from the clutches of his new wealthy, noisy neighbours.
But then, from nowhere, stage left came Robinho. One of the most skilful, exhilarating players on the planet was coming to ‘likkle Citeh’. That’s if he could force his way past DeMarcus Beasley into the first team of course. Sure he turned out to be a flamboyant dud but that day will live with me, and many others, forever. It was SSN’s cup final and they duly played an absolute blinder. The roomful of poker players I was amongst that evening forgot all about bluffing with 5-2 off-suit and collectively gaped at the screen in genuine, enthralled astonishment.
2010 – Blades of Glory part two. Babel goes for a ride
On a relatively slow deadline day the news that Ryan Babel had been spotted leaving John Lennon airport in a helicopter bound for London was given the full hyperbolic coverage by Jim and the boys in the Sky studio. Was he joining Tottenham? West Ham? For all scousers cared he could be moving to Barnet as long as the barn-door misser was off their books. Except that the flying Dutchman never arrived in the capital. In fact he never arrived anywhere, and to this day no-one is quite sure where Babel went last September 1st. It will always remain a sporting mystery to rival that of Shergar’s disappearance or how the hell Michael Ricketts got an England cap. Some may claim to know but they don’t really. Due to low cloud cover not even Ryan himself can state with any degree of certainty.
2010 – Harry bites the hand that feeds him
Upon leaving the Tottenham training complex Redknapp was duly approached by a Sky Sports reporter who’d been diligently freezing his knackers off waiting patiently for this moment all day.
‘Any developments Harry?’ the reporter politely enquired.
The crafty man-of-the-people insisted there would be nothing more occurring then made a flippant joke about ‘Lionel’ being interested and sped off.
Only hours later Spurs pull off an eleventh hour £8m swoop for Real Madrid’s Van Der Vaart.
The reporter was last seen wandering the streets of London still wearing the suit he was sacked in, glugging back a can of Special Brew and muttering ‘That fucking Twitcher. I thought he was my mate. Hic.’