By Richard Trenchard
So the January transfer window has closed – I refuse to say slam shut – and it wasn’t exactly a thrilling month was it? The whole idea of transfer windows is a contentious issue with many Premier League managers looking to boost their chances in the divisional markets so should we keep it or scrap it?
We’ve only just closed one window but the transfer gossip rumbles on. But teams can’t sign players until the summer and they won’t be playing Premier League games until August. Why can’t we go back to the old days and have transfers at any time up to that near-end-of-season deadline?
The idea of a transfer window changes the way that a manager runs his club. New managers could be appointed and instantly start getting down to work and signing and selling players in the hope of securing the results they are being paid to achieve, both short-term and long-term.
Under present constraints, a manager appointed in September is stuck with the squad he inherits and has to wait until January before being able to bring in the players he wants. Take the situation at QPR for example. Harry Redknapp left straight after the transfer window closed. Whoever takes over can’t bring in new players and has to make do with what he’s been left by the former boss.
Actually, thinking of managers being appointed during the season, why isn’t there a transfer window for managers? A club can’t sign players, but are OK changing the men who are responsible for buying and selling them. That’s an argument for another day perhaps.
Then there’s the issue of players who find themselves left out of the team on a regular basis or have a major fall-out with their manager. Are they going to be just left sitting there waiting for a transfer window to come along? Mind you, there are different rules for League teams so they can sign players on loan during most of the season. That gives us a transfer system where the rules are different depending on which division you play in.
Plenty of critics
The League Managers’ Association are no fans of the January transfer window. They claim “it doesn’t create stability; it doesn’t create a level playing field”. No one used to complain in the past though, when transfers were happening throughout the season.
The January transfer window in particular always seems to be a bit of a non-event. It comes at a time when there’s a break in the Champions League and the Europa League. Teams still involved in those competitions are reluctant to sell top-class players so little happens during the month.
So what do we do about the transfer window? I preferred the days when teams could sign players whenever they wanted to. Take Liverpool this season for example, they lost Luis Suarez (actually one of the few big signings that happened during a January transfer window) and then Daniel Sturridge got injured, leaving them really short up front. In the old days that situation could have been remedied, but Liverpool had to wait for the next transfer window to open. Even then, they didn’t bring a striker in.
Part of the lack of appetite to sign big in January could be a result of Financial Fair Play rules. Why else does Chelsea have an eye on balancing their books when venturing into the transfer market?
Transfers add to the excitement of the game. Can a new signing turn a team’s season around or will it be a costly mistake? It’s also a great test of a manager’s skill. Perhaps instead there could be restrictions on the number of transfers a team can make during a season. That would make clubs think more carefully about how they operate in the market.