This week Kieran Davies takes a bucket of soap and water to the recently closed transfer window and checks his passport for France.
As the saying goes, when one door closes another opens, except in this case we are talking windows and not doors. As the transfer window closed this week, a window of opportunity opens for many nations in qualification for the European Championships. After UEFA changed the format of the tournament giving more teams a chance to qualify by increasing the size of the finals tournament this has allowed many developing European football nations the chance to reach the finals rather than just the usual suspects. Having said that, a lot of the teams looking to get to their first finals tournament in a long time are actually topping their groups meaning the change in format was not even necessary in their success. It seems a long time in coming that we go into the last few games of a qualifying group phase with all home nations sides in good positions to reach the promised land that is France.
England sealed their spot and were the first team to book their place in the finals in what was quite a routine group stage with very little in the way of competition in their group. Granted, they didn’t pick their opponents so you can only do what is asked of you, but if they had the chance to do so I’m sure Gibraltar would have found themselves in this group instead of the might of Switzerland. In all fairness, England always tend to do well in the qualifying group phase, it’s when they get to the finals that they are about as much use as a three pin plug on the continent. Considering the plethora of talent of their disposal, there is no excuse for their constant failure. From an outsider looking in, bad news England fans, I don’t think Woy Hodgson is the man to take anyone to glory so you may have to continue reminding us all of ’66, Geoff Hurst and ‘they think it’s all over, it is now!’ for some years to come.
There are many what we regard as ‘football geniuses’ that never got to grace the big stage with the obvious ones springing to mind being the likes of George Best, Neville Southall, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Ryan Giggs, Sami Hyypia, Jari Litmanen and so on. I am sure most of the deemed ‘smaller nations’ can name their idols who never got the chance purely because of where they were born. The revamp of the European Championships may change all of that though. Wales sit pretty at the top of their group as do Northern Ireland while Republic of Ireland and Scotland still have work to do but with two automatic places and a play off place up for grabs, they both stand a good chance of getting to the finals in France. It certainly is good to see so much positivity for the home nation sides, experience of finals tournaments will only help grow the potential of these players from tasting football on the big stage.
While the international break tickles the taste buds of most British football fans for a change, everyone still craves that return to club football. The bread and butter of any football fan. This is why we all look forward to ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ with such glee. The media in general will try and link any team with disposal funds (not always a necessity) to any player, with the merest of links between club and player. While the window is open we are all keen to see who our club is going to bring in and more often than not we are all too impatient to wait until the player is stood in front of that club crest once any deal is officially confirmed. This is why we trawl the internet, read the gossip columns and are glued to Sky Sports News on the final day of the transfer window.
Sometimes doing this can be soul destroying. You read about players who are apparently ‘nailed on’ to sign for your club while the individual involved has not even heard of any interest from the team in question. We all remember the great moments (depending on your allegiance) like the silhouette of Dimitar Berbatov seen walking past a window at Old Trafford or Peter Odemwingie driving to Loftus Road to pitch himself to the club in the most bizarre fashion, this is what the last day of the transfer window is all about. Although more recently even Jim White has struggled to drum up the anticipation of fans in what have been quite a slow final curtain to festivities. This season was more a case of the ‘what could have been’ than was actually was. As it comes to light in the days and weeks after the window has closed, what deals clubs tried to complete it seems the clubs are slowly getting one over on the press and keeping the major moves under wraps.
Chelsea had an offer for Paul Pogba accepted by Juventus only for the player to turn the deal down. Man Utd did try and sign most players in Europe as LVG throws pile after pile of money at his Old Trafford ‘project’. He did manage to sign Monaco forward Anthony Martial in a deal which could prove to be worth an astronomical £58m. I personally had never heard of this player prior to the transfer and when looking his history up on the internet was expecting to have to create his Wikipedia page. It seems an awful lot of money for a player who had scored 11 goals in two seasons. The infamous David De Gea saga played out right until the final moments of the window with the supposed ‘done deal’ falling through at the last hurdle when (depending which source you believe) either United or Madrid were responsible for not getting the required paperwork across in time. This then sparked a war of words between the two clubs in the press as they both blame the other for failure of the transfer.
Having seen the amounts spent individually by managers during the transfer window, there are some real high profile managers who are under pressure to deliver this season. Brendan Rodgers is one of the favourites for the chop as his faltering Liverpool struggle for goals despite his mammoth outlays. As mentioned before LVG has spent big in his tenure yet has a record nearly identical to David Moyes before his dismissal. Even Jose Mourinho who some would perceive as untouchable due to his stature will feel the breath of Roman Abramovic on his neck as Chelsea find themselves 8 points behind the pacesetters this early on in the season. While fans still curse the chairman of their clubs as they failed to make the signings they feel they needed the cards are now dealt until January when managers can finally decide whether to stick or twist with their squads.