The Day After The Night Before

And so the winter transfer deadline is closed. Good riddance. Having no digital tv, I don’t even get so much as to take part in the bemused, but utterly compelling, treatment of the final day of the winter transfer deadline on Sky Sports News, so ably sent up in today’s Irish Times by the ever-brilliant Mary Hannigan, the sports pages’ answer to Miriam Lord.

I find the winter transfer window to be a bit of an anti-climax. The reality is that it’s a terrible time to make a move between clubs, unless they’re within driving distance. For those footballers who are married, have children, or a permanent address it must surely be a pain in the backside to move mid-season, but also mid-school year. It might be easy to assume that such things wouldn’t concern those who can for the most part throw money at a problem to make it go away.

But given the prevalence of managers (Alex Ferguson, famously) who prefer to see their young charges enter settled life young, such issues must be brought to bear on their decisions about transferring clubs around this time of the year. Though the footballing world is one now where the player is supposedly in command, where the chattel-esque days of the retain-and-transfer system, the maximum wage are long gone, I can’t help but feel that the transfer window, especially in winter, and the last day of it particularly remind us that as an industry, football has surely one of the worst labour markets in the world.

For all the claims that players are in charge, it’s hard not to feel that this isn’t really true and that’s never more stark than deadline day. If the club no longers the same sway over a player (I don’t buy that one, personally) then there can be no denying that the agent has effectively replaced the club in the role of chief-bully, supposedly acting in their clients best interests.

But transfer deadline day conjures up for me the worst images of football, it is greed on full display – it acts as a reminder that to be a footballer is to be in some of the most unstable employment possible.

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