Window of opportunity or pane in the ass? Part 1
To adapt an old joke, when is a transfer window not a transfer window? When it’s ajar.
The significance of yesterday’s 5pm deadline for incoming transfers pales when you realise that at all levels the majority of the deals struck were loans and note that, after a week’s hiatus, such deals can continue to be made by Championship clubs until 23rd March.
Nevertheless, here’s a quick survey of January’s winners in the second tier.
Well, this is novel: satisfaction at my club’s mid-season dealings. In recent years we’ve become depressingly accustomed to a chronic failure to address deficiencies and plug holes, but for once the powers-that-be should be commended. We’ve strengthened most significantly at the back, signing Danny Simpson and Mike Williamson on permanent deals and bringing in QPR’s Fitz Hall (aka One Size) and Chelsea’s young left-back Patrick van Aanholt on loan. But there have been important additions further up the pitch, too – Wayne Routledge has been drafted in to provide trickery and service wide on the right and Leon Best will be vying with Peter Lovenkrands for the role of pacy striker alongside one of our six-footers. They may all be signings made with the short term in view, but the fact that they all have Championship pedigree and experience suggests a refreshing pragmatism. And all this with just the loss of Geremi, his trundling off to Turkey a huge burden off the wage bill. As Paul commented over on our site, “what’s certain is that we can’t use lack of numbers as an excuse if our season implodes from here”.
No dressing room looks as different at the beginning of February as the one at the Riverside. Since taking the reins from Gareth Southgate, Wee Gordon Strachan had clearly been assessing his squad and deemed it neither good enough nor large enough, so sprang into action as soon as the window opened. No fewer than five Celtic players have been reunited with their former manager, the pick of the bunch being Scotland defender Stephen McManus and £3.5m deadline day signing Scott McDonald. The latter, together with Chris Killen and former Aberdeen striker Lee Miller, will be charged with scoring the goals to haul them into the play-off places, while the loan signing of Spurs full-back Kyle Naughton is a real coup. Meanwhile, ineffective midfielders Mohammed Shawky and Didier Digard have been sent packing, and, although it might seem strange to suggest a side lacking in offensive threat should be winners despite flogging their top scorer and arguably the best player in the division, the fact remains that Adam Johnson could have left for nothing in the summer so £7m of Sheikh Mansour’s cash will be very welcome indeed.
After a sticky spell in the autumn the Blades are now once again looking good value for a play-off berth, and Kevin Blackwell’s January acquisitions suggest that that’s a realistic target. Richard Cresswell and Toni Kallio have already been instrumental in their season so far, with the former penning a permanent transfer from Stoke and the latter returning from Fulham for another loan spell. Mark Yeates never got a fair chance on Teesside so will be hoping his move south brings more action (though he’ll have a job to displace Jamie Ward first) while Nyron Nosworthy shouldn’t have any problems fitting in, accustomed as he is to wearing the red and white stripes of Sunderland (something he was doing even as recently as last month). The only departure of note was Matt Kilgallon, who jumped ship to the Mackems – but, as with Adam Johnson, he could have walked for free in June so it was a wise move to cash in on an unsettled player rather than try clinging onto him.
Sometimes, it seems, it just comes down to who you know. And when you know Sir Alex Ferguson – or, more precisely, when he’s your dad – your luck’s in. For Darren Ferguson, only recently ensconsed in the Deepdale dugout following his acrimonious exit from Peterborough, nepotistic reward has come in the form of Danny Welbeck. With Wayne Rooney currently comprising Man Utd’s attack all on his own, it’s a wonder Fergie Sr has agreed to farm him out, but the skilled, fleet-of-foot and clever striker will bring a whole new dimension to the Lilywhites’ attack, previously populated by lantern-jawed bludgeoners like Jon Parkin and Neil Mellor. Championship loan signing of the window, without a shadow of a doubt. Meanwhile, midfielder Keith Treacy made the short hop from Blackburn and Neill Collins, a defender of considerable experience with Sunderland and Wolves, has also joined for what’s set to be a belated push up the table.
The lack of new faces at the Liberty Stadium might well be interpreted as a sign of failure, and indeed the Swans would have benefited from some reinforcements as they attempt to cement their position amongst the play-off pack. But, like chairman Huw Jenkins, I’ve classified them as winners simply because it’s arguably as vital to hang on to those you’ve already got at your disposal. Yesterday alone saw aggressive bids from Wigan, Forest and Fulham for three different players – Leon Britton, Darren Pratley and Angel Rangel respectively – rebuffed. At a time when cash is hard to come by and so offers are particularly alluring, only a well-run and prudent club can feel confident and stable enough to dismiss unwelcome advances.
The Championship’s transfer window losers to follow later today.