If you’re an obsessive viewer of Sky Sports News, today is your Christmas Day – the first of two to happen each year; three if you include the proper, albeit less exciting, birthday of Jesus himself.
Yes, it’s the January transfer deadline day – and in case it hasn’t dawned on you yet, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us that this underwhelming blend of hope, numbers and hyperbole was a notable day in the footballing calendar.
Just as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were allegedly invented solely to sell greeting cards, you wonder if transfer deadline day was drummed up by anxious Sky executives, keen to see a biannual bump in the viewing figures, as well as giving Jim White a much-needed sense of purpose.
If you’ve been tuning into Sky Sports News throughout January, you’ll have almost certainly been annoyed by the constant hum of transfer window guff emanating from it. Of course, most of us worked out AGES ago that rolling news channels are just zeppelins of bullshit kept aloft by their own self-generating hot air.
With Sky Sports News though, the entire transfer window is a serious business, and their colour scheme is a crucial factor – bright yellow. It’s the colour favoured by Sky when BREAKING NEWS is happening and like Pavlovian dogs, we’re being sold the idea that Brian Swanson’s sporadic updates, displayed on his massive, yolk-toned screen, are important.
The truth is quite the opposite, as Swanson, like a child that has just realised it’s about to wet itself, pompously propagates rumours that have appeared in that morning’s Daily Star, while reminding us that enough dough has already been spent in this month’s window to build a handful of state-of-the-art cancer units.
A few days ago, the loan move of Manchester City (and I had to check because I don’t remember him ever playing for them) winger Scott Sinclair to Aston Villa was being treated with the reverence afforded to the birth of a minor royal.
Not yet 26 years of age, this is the eighth loan move of Sinclair’s career. Like one of those kids raised by parents in the armed forces, the absence of any kind of roots in his world may yet lead to a future scarred by emotional trauma.
But it would be wrong to suggest that every deadline day has been a complete and utter waste of time. There was that evening in 2008 when Manchester City inexplicably forked out £33 million on Robinho, just as the viewing nation was ready to bail for a repeat of Silent Witness.
Then there was the balmy August night when Roy Keane recruited six players in almost as many hours for Sunderland – the polar opposite of a terrorist releasing hostages as he realises that his control over the situation is waning.
Brilliantly, in the recent past, most of the real entertainment has come from the deals that haven’t gone through on the final day. How can we forget Peter Odemwingie’s legendary ‘reverse Partridge’, when he drove south from the Midlands (with shoes on) in a ultimately fruitless bid to seal a move to Queen’s Park Rangers in 2013? The QPR hierarchy rightly identified him as a deranged interloper, locking the doors and denying him any access to the Loftus Road nerve centre.
The footage of a deflated Odemwingie being interviewed by a Sky Sports News reporter was priceless – the scales visibly falling from the player’s eyes as he realised that he’d exposed himself to the world as a howling, grabbing chump.
Almost on a par with that fiasco was the aborted transfer of Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United in September 2013. Sky’s saliva-drenched coverage of attempts to ‘get the deal across the line’ turned into high farce as it emerged that the three United officials that were trying to usher the midfielder in the direction of a flight to Manchester were just a trio of chancers with no remit whatsoever from the bean counters at the Theatre of Dreams. Beautiful scenes.
The most disappointing thing of all is that no one has yet melded these two glorious incidents and spent deadline day knocking on the doors of clubs around the country, having a bash at sealing some fictional deals, purely for shits, giggles and YouTube hits.
It looks as though we’re finally going to be denied the other major source of deadline day entertainment – the over-excitable hordes of fans who congregate behind the beleaguered Sky Sports News reporters who are tasked with announcing that Mark Hughes has been seen leaving the Britannia Stadium at 7.46pm and heading in the direction of his favourite local eaterie, meaning that there will be no more deals done at Stoke.
Bored with the lack of red hot transfer action, one these fans will invariably unveil an inflatable penis and wave it around provocatively in the rear of the shot, leading to a quick return to the Sky Sports News ‘HQ’ and an embarrassed apology from whichever presenter is covering that hour’s nothingness.
Failing that, like a modern day Sex Pistol, one of the fans will bark out a rude word or attempt to kick off a pornographic chant. Same result – back to the studio and an apology delivered through barely-suppressed giggles.
Weary of this, and after a conversation or three with Ofcom, Sky will be planting their reporters in secure locations, where pesky kids can’t spoil their serious news-gathering.
‘Serious’ might well be the wrong word – for Sky Sports News, deadline day (I could capitalise it, but that would be playing into their hands) is the equivalent of the last day of term at junior school, when you’re allowed to take games in. The whole thing reeks of a massive in-joke, but the only ones laughing are White and his cohorts.
What’s more worrying is that the BBC appears to have bought into the whole myth and is now itself treating this gassy, wanky charade as something worthy of significant coverage too. Later this evening, Dan Walker, the crown prince of mauve, will be rounding up all the day’s major moves in a 45-minute BBC1 special. That’s the same length of time that was devoted to highlights of last season’s Capital One Cup Final.
Watch out for Martin Keown reaching for a few platitudes about Arsenal’s new centre back, Gabriel Paulista, who Arsene Wenger admits he signed based partly on some statistics. If Wenger isn’t taking this thing seriously, why should we?
The whole deadline day cult is a deranged festival of piss and wind and I suppose if you can’t beat ‘em you should join ‘em. If I thought he’d still be in a job come the summer, I’d be busy manufacturing inflatable Harry Redknapp car windows to flog on eBay the next time the sorry saga plays itself out.
You can follow Andy Dawson on Twitter (@profanityswan)