T'is the Season for Folly
As the final days of July maraud past like an angry bull at a rodeo, leaving us wondering where the bloody hell time is going, there’s one bizarre epoch that stands alone from the dwindling days like some sort of footballing Twilight Zone, causing fans across the country to rip their hair out and believe literally anything that they read. With tournament football a thing of distant memory (who cares about internationals anyway, right?) the lull that we endure whilst teams flock across land and sea to rack up as much pre-season money as they can is a long and painful one, sparking aggravated moments of madness which follow an embarrassingly simple formula of more or less getting sprung at the thought of some exotic foreign talent eating his lunch within a ten mile radius of a football stadium. Oh yes, it’s the summer transfer window. And as per, it’s sending me on the warpath.
I’m a West Ham fan. For us, transfer windows have this harrowing tendency to flirt with complete and utter disaster. One window we might be signing our soul away to South American professional footballer trafficking, whilst the next we’ll have strange Icelandic bankers touting our Champions League credentials as they unremittingly assault Kieron Dyer with stacks upon stacks of money. I’m not entirely sure where this trend of thoroughly humiliating ourselves each and every summer stemmed from, but it doesn’t seem to be letting up this time round. At the point of writing, Twitter is awash with dozens of journos jizzing their pants over the confirmation of a loan deal with Liverpool for the services of Andy Carroll. Now, before you get too excited over the tantalising strike partnership of Carlton “Goals” Cole and Big Andy C, just ask yourself this question: has football gone totally mad... again?
Cliches aside, let’s review some recent facts. A club whose debt is widely publicised to be an eight figure sum is promoted to the Premier League, and decide that, instead of investing in a balanced squad to ensure top flight sustainability, disbursing a staggering amount of money (I’m talking wages here, 80k a week if you’re curious) on a talented yet distinctly limited centre forward who has a colourful array of confidence issues is the best step forward. Now, rumours were abound last week that there’s going to be some sort of substantial ‘investment’ into the club, and if we pull this off I suspect that there is indeed some financial backing going on behind the scenes, as there’s simply no chance that the two Davids have this amount of scratch to squander on a marquee signing. But taking a sugar daddy into account does nothing to disguise the complete lunacy of what’s going on here.
So naturally, as a man who despairs at having his optimism tainted and turned into flat out antagonism, I’m going to point the finger of blame at the transfer window. That's right, I’m ignoring the dastardly dealings of the corporate world and I’m bypassing the corrupting allure of Premier League prize money, no matter how much they tie in to the root of the problem. Let’s talk about the summer window. Forget the irritable ‘in-the-knows’ for a second and try and survey the real damage that it does here. Steven Fletcher, a good player in his own right, is supposedly being courted by Sunderland for a fee of about £13 million. Joe Allen, that geezer who’s right good at keeping possession, is a target for repeating offenders Liverpool, with a fee of £15 million being banded about the place. Now I know this all a bit trivial - kind of like complaining about the sun being hot - but it seems that the kind of players commanding these fees are deteriorating in quality each season, whilst the money being chucked around remains shockingly inflated. To really put this into context for you, just look at how much Barcelona splashed out of Euro 2012 sensation Jordi Alba. It was 14 million. Euros.
The summer window really does turn the screw on clubs to splash unprecedented amounts of cash on players that really aren’t worth it, especially in the Premier League, where there’s an added impetus on players being British due to recent homegrown quotas for playing squads. I know many of you will say that there’s nothing new in this observation, and I must say I agree with you. This has been going on for years now, probably first starting around, oh I don’t know? Maybe when the transfer window first came along? But my concern doesn’t so much lie with how the game works. It’s with the alarming rate of which things are getting worse. And when a player such as Carroll, who’s had such an atrocious season, still manages to command prospective fees of £20 million - plus his astonishing wages - then it’s clear that this utter folly that rolls around every summer shows no sign of sorting itself.
Maybe the transfer window is essential for football to thrive these days. The rumours and the anticipation and the excitement that surround it really adds a unique dimension to the huge drama that the beautiful game can provide for us. But as the next stage of the Joe Allen transfer saga gets reported on in the coming weeks, just think to yourself, is this really healthy for the game in the long run? I’d be hesitant in suggesting that it is.
you can follow Ryan on twitter @ryandavidjay and make sure you check out his column every monday throughout the season