I’ve had to turn my phone off for an hour to sit down to write this week’s column. This is due to the fact we are in the middle of the January transfer window.
I knew before I got into management that transfer windows could be a hectic time but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that actually goes into it. Prior to the window opening I was more than happy with our squad (I still am but over the course of this column I will try to explain how things change).
First of all I want to put on record that I’m not a fan of the two transfer windows in our league. The reason being is that in what is predominantly a part time league we have to carry extra bodies just in case of a spate of injuries or suspensions.
These players in turn take up a portion of our wage cap whilst not always contributing much to the team. On the flip side of that you see some squads who are trying to run on a skeleton squad in the hope they avoid injuries - many of these clubs do this to try to save money between the two transfer windows.
If we had an open transfer window until the end of March as it used to be in England when I first started playing, I feel clubs would be more settled in their squads and not have the mad panic during January where the thought of a ‘bigger’ club coming in to swoop on a star player causes unease amongst managers.
From my point of view as a manager now, I’m seeing players who have maybe missed a squad or two starting to panic as the thought of going from now to the end of the season, not getting as much game time as they would like weighs down on their mind. The thought of the window slamming shut at the end of the month and those players being out of the picture for now will cause players across our league to be asking their various managers to either be placed on the transfer list or reassurance that they will be getting guaranteed game time.
Add into the mix you have boards and chairmen who will be looking at the wage bill and maybe think that there is no opportunity to win the league/get into Europe/get promoted. They will then start to ask the manager about the possibility of off loading one or two higher paid players. Luckily for me I have Barry Gray on the board who was the manager for 13 years so he knows of the way the playing side of the club runs better than most boards.
A suggestion I would like to be in place if we need to keep the two windows would be the introduction of a loan window which is in place in England beneath the Premier League and also runs successfully in the League of Wales which is more realistic to our level of football.
During my career in England there were many stories of players trying to manufacture moves away from their clubs similar to the situation currently happening with Dimitri Payet at West Ham but the best story I know is of Jonathan Gould, who was at Bradford City trying to get a move away. His agent had told him there was a bit of interest in him and that he would need to keep his mobile on at all times.
This was pre Jim White days of countdown throughout the whole month of January until the window closed and was in the time of the window closing on the last Thursday in March.
Anyway Jonathon Gould took his agents warning to the letter and placed his phone down his football sock andwent out to train. Halfway through the training session and a shrill ring interrupted the session with the players looking towards the goal to see Gould answer the phone and in no time at all sprint off the pitch to get in his car and head towards Glasgow where he completed a move to Glasgow Celtic!!
The fun and games of the transfer window doesn’t stop with the signings coming or going in January as now is the time that it’s legally possible to speak with players about them coming in to us in the summer months. My time making calls this last few weeks has been to other managers asking them for permission to do this (which isn’t actually necessary but I feel it’s courtesy) and in turn fielding calls from managers requesting permission from myself to speak to players that they have seen haven’t made the match day squad over the last couple of weeks or even worse the players who have been doing really well.
It’s during these chats that little snippets about different players in the league or afar come out and then the cycle starts all over again with calls going to other managers about the possibility of moves becoming available right now. Then it’s a case of getting in touch with the player and enquiring if they would be interested in meeting myself for a chat.
All in all, to sign a player it generally takes a couple of face to face meetings and dozens of hours of calls between myself and the player, Barry and our Board, my coaching staff to get their opinion and the manager of the club the player is leaving.
If you add in the initial scouting information I have done on the players then the actual hours probably mount up to nearly a two full days for each transfer!