By Peter Staunton
For 90 days straight the transfer window brings elation and despair, depending on who you support. It is a soap opera; it concocts plot-lines and last-gasps twists. It makes a television show of football when there is no football on. We cannot get enough of it. But for those on the inside of the game, particularly managers in Britain, it is an impediment. Those 90 days tick by and it may as well be a time-bomb going off at 11pm on September 2.
"A circus", according to Roberto Martinez. "An absolute joke", says Ian Holloway. Instead of coaching their teams through the first three matches of the season they are distracted by the incomings, the outgoings and the unsettled players. Everton lost their most important midfielder to Manchester United and replaced him with Wigan's. Tit for tat. Owen Coyle's the loser in a game of poker between Martinez and David Moyes. Not an ideal start for anyone.
|Owen Garvan, Crystal Palace
Irish midfielder Owen Garvan was a key part of Crystal Palace's team which escaped the Championship last season.
He has already featured in the Premier League but was surprisingly omitted from Ian Holloway's finalised list of 25 players for the first half of the season.
That is due, in part, to the registration of 14 of 16 summer signings in the Eagles' squad for the campaign ahead, leaving Garvan disappointed on the fringes.
The 25-year-old has already sought to undermine his manager with a thinly-veiled jibe on Twitter, saying "I'll be here longer then [sic] he will...trust me."
He's not the only one stuck at a club he would rather not be at. Does anyone believe that Luis Suarez would not have given up his hopes of leaving Liverpool had the window not been slamming shut? How nicely it all coincided; his newly-discovered desire to stay and lead Liverpool into the Champions League and the end of the window. Yohan Cabaye has finally knuckled down as Newcastle made it clear he would not be transferring to Arsenal. His physical presence assured but are there any guarantees about performances?
The window creates pressure; deadlines for players, for managers and for agents. These middlemen are deprived of the right to make money eight months a year and so, justifiably, are out to maximise their earnings during open season. Mino Raiola and his ilk have as much sway in the market as any coach or director of football.
And God forbid a manager get it wrong in the eyes of the fans during the window. Arsene Wenger was hanging by a shaky peg in the eyes of Arsenal fans before he signed Mesut Ozil. Moyes another one under pressure, sharing the blame for a bad window with Ed Woodward. Unfair parameters have been erected. Managers judged on their ability to coach teams second, with their willingness to spend millions primary in supporters' concerns.
All the while, the clock ticks on. With every second the price of a sought-after player goes up as does his wage. The impending dread of being left empty-handed means managers are paying over the odds for mediocre talent just for the sake of it. The frenzied nature of transfers would quickly disappear if there was no designated transfer period at all.
It exists only as a flimsy compromise between EU bureaucrats and the deranged world of football which refused to acknowledge, until forced to, that players were workers like anyone else and entitled to leave their jobs at any stage during their contracts. To stop them walking out at the drop of a hat, two designated transfer windows across a season were settled upon. It is up to individual national associations to decide on the dates and work it out themselves from there.
Is it time for Fifa to end the arrangement? The tail seems to be now wagging the dog. The transfer window has grown as big as the game itself. If it did not exist there would be no more 'frozen out' players denied the opportunity to find a solution to an impasse with their clubs. Managers would be working only with players who wanted to be there. Struggling clubs would stand a better chance of staying financially buoyant by punting the odd player here and there whenever the could. Injuries would no longer decimate squads and leave coaches without suitable options. It would, essentially, give us all a breather. Decisions could be based on what's required and not what will keep fans at bay.