At the time of typing it’s 6.30am (BST) on Friday 31 August and even the old pro Michael Owen is enraptured by the magic of this special day, tweeting: “Up early, too excited to sleep. Final day of the transfer window and I’m likely to play a part in it!” The prospect of Stoke City and Southampton duking it out for his services isn’t enough to dampen Owen’s enthusiasm. But then if a football club were willing to fund your passion in racehorses and all they asked in return was for you to provide their medical staff with experience in dealing with soft tissue injuries, you’d be overjoyed too.
Since its inception in 2002, the summer Transfer Deadline Day (TDD) has become a momentous national institution, providing fuel for a media industry able to give licence to their most creative urges. It’s the closest the Premier League has to a players draft and preys upon the hopes, delusions and naivety of football fans. Yet we all like to dream of what can be.
Thus, TDDs often fail to live up to the hype. This time last year saw the list of high profile acquisitions headed by Mikel Arteta, Raul Meireles, Craig Bellamy, Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome. Today we might get to see Jermaine Jenas, Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, Yossi Benayoun and Marouane Chamakh making the headlines. Hardly stellar names. Most of the bigger clubs have already done their business so there’s not a lot left for Sky Sports News to get in a tizz about. It’s now about clearing out the deadwood to the poor sops in the rest of the league (or Championship).
When embarking on a new career on Championship Manager, I would scour the market for free agents to bolster my promotion push from the fourth tier. This year, alongside Owen, there are former England internationals Emile Heskey, Owen Hargreaves, Lee Bowyer (one cap), Darius Vassell, James Beattie and Richard Wright available for nothing. Only Bowyer is over 34.
That these guys are left in the shop window at this late stage suggests that there is less money out there chasing players, driving up wages. Owen has stated he doesn’t want to accept a drop in income. No self-assured footballer would. The proclivity for loan deals also hints at a new-found financial responsibility, while highlighting the previous recklessness of teams like Man City, who have loaned Wayne Bridge to Brighton yet still pay $85k towards his $95k-a-week wages.
It should still be fun. Seeing footballers traded around like cattle demonstrates that they don’t have it all their own way. Daniel Levy should provide his trademark last-ditch drama, proving that sans Harry Redknapp, he is the ultimate wheeler dealer.