Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Window Shopping

So as the world makes the transition from 2007 to 2008, many people take a minute to reflect on their lives. What they achieved or failed to achieve in the previous year and what they hope to achieve in the coming months.

In the world of football, things are ever so slightly different. The new year signals the middle of the season in most leagues. Across the continent, many countries take a mid-season break depriving their fans of the excessive feast of football we get here in the UK. January the 1st is not so much about new beginnings but rather the resumption of business as usual. However, there is an opportunity for reflection and an introspective look at self-improvement amongst clubs...

In 2003, FIFA, in order to fall into line with the rest of the continent, introduced a mandatory transfer window during the season in which clubs could conduct their necessary transfer dealings. This meant that apart from the summer, top flight clubs only had one month in which to buy, sell or loan players. Lower league clubs abide by the same window rules but also have a separate 'loan' window which operates twice during the season.

This ruling has been heavily criticised. Surely this constitutes some form of restriction of trade? Something the authoriies said they wanted to avoid in their rebuttal of introducing quotas (Not that I'm a fan of this suggestion either).

What we have seen in this country since the window was introduced is a spate of panic buys resulting in a deluge of players that clubs have ultimately found to be, lets just say, not as good as first anticipated.

Desperation is the name of the game and negotiation skills seemingly fly straight out of this metaphorical window. Clubs have the opportunity to over-inflate their asking prices because they know they buying party are willing to pay whatever it takes to get their man. On the flip side, a club that needs to sell will end up only receiving a fraction of a players true value when they are up against the clock. Also, on a time limit, managers have no time to replace players or have to do so with inadequate alternatives.

It is possible to pick up a bargain although these are very few and far between. Good fortune may also find that players, both existing and new buys/loanees up their game in the crucial second half of season in the knowledge that they have to stay put where they are and as such are expected to perform.

If a manager cant shift his dead wood during this time, he's stuck with an unhappy player possibly disrupting the camp for the rest of the season.

Managers only have a month in which to re-shuffle the pack during which time fixtures are still ongoing. Players end up being scouted off the back of individual performances rather than over a longer period of time. For struggling clubs, bad business during the transfer window could see them falling through the relegation trap-door!

The problems are far reaching. There's no telling who, when or how long a player or players may be injured for. If this happens at a crucial time of the season such as in a title race or the midst of a relegation battle for instance, clubs, although they have the money, are prevented from purchasing replacements. I suppose you could say they could draft in a youth team player but is it really fair to throw novices in at the deep end for what could crucially make or break a career? Some managers might do this anyway but I'm sure most others would at least like to have options.

Finally, differences of opinion between board and management over when or who to buy and how much they should pay, could - and often does - lead to in-fighting within the club causing instability and ultimately, a detriment to on-pitch performances.

Transfer window? Many would say just leave it open otherwise, you might wake up on 1st February to find out your club has just signed Nigel Quashie!

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