EFL COLUMN: A QUIET DEADLINE DAY COULD BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR EFL CLUBS
Deadline day of the January transfer window is generally one of the most over-hyped occasions in the football calendar.
Rarely does it provide the sort of last-minute drama that media outlets are baying for, and incidents of late-window panic, like Chelsea and Liverpool splurging a combined £85million on Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll, has helped the majority of clubs to realise they are better off getting their business done early.
The impact of Covid-19 has made this the quietest January transfer window since they were introduced in 2003, reducing the likelihood of fireworks on the final day even further. The economic reality of the pandemic means there will be a sparsity of big-money ‘swoops’, lockdown restrictions will spare unsuspecting Sky Sports News reporters the career-shattering indignity of having a sex toy thrust in their ear on live television, and social distancing should mean we don’t have to hear from Harry Redknapp via the window of his Land Rover.
Although the clubs of the EFL have never been in a financial position to pull off transfer mistakes on the scale of Torres or Carroll, they have had their own deadline day disasters. Perhaps the most famous of these was documented for all to see in season two of Netflix series ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’. As the north-east club came to terms with a first season in the third tier in more than 30 years, new owners Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven looked to make their mark with a statement signing in the January transfer window in the hope of securing an immediate return to the Championship. Despite the pair finding a way to transform the documentary into something akin to a tragicomedy every time they appeared on screen, Donald’s desperate attempts to bring in Northern Ireland international Will Grigg on the final day of the January 2019 window would have had even Alan Partridge and David Brent recoiling through cringe-worthiness.
Sunderland eventually secured the signing of Grigg for an eye-watering £4million pounds – a League One record - after Donald spent the evening of deadline day increasing his offer for the Wigan striker with the determination of a man driving barefoot to Dundee in search of more Toblerone. Despite the pleas of head of recruitment Tony Coton and manager Jack Ross to pull out of the deal, with Coton even telling the former Eastleigh owner that he had ‘fallen into the trap of January transfer windows’, Grigg signed in the dying moments of the window as Donald oozed with self-satisfaction.
Had the transfer worked out, the former chairman’s blushes would possibly have been spared, but Grigg has scored just eight goals in his two years at the Stadium of Light and is now set to move on loan to a divisional rival before the current window ends. The introduction of wage caps in League One and Two has helped to curb a lot of this type of mindless spending, but the EFL are yet to introduce regulations on overly excitable chairmen.
Thankfully, the current window has been typified by shrewd, inexpensive signings and intelligent looking loan moves. Preston’s cut-price capture of Doncaster’s Ben Whiteman appears a great piece of business after he spent the past few seasons controlling League One midfields, the temporary addition of Dan Crowley at Hull could go a long way to getting the Tigers back in the Championship, and Newport’s acquisition of Dom Telford may prove to be a smart move after his success in League Two at both Bury and Plymouth.
As anyone who has opened up a Wall Street investment portfolio in the past week will tell you, financial landscapes are always shaped by those at the top of the food chain – and this is no different in the Football League. The past few deadline days have seen Said Benrahma, Joe Rodon and Jarrod Bowen leave the EFL after being poached by Premier League clubs, and whilst the riches of the top tier mean a late swoop for one of the Championship’s best and brightest cannot be ruled out completely, the general trend of the window so far suggests we should be able to enjoy Emi Buendia, Ivan Toney and Michael Olise until the summer at least.
Whilst some clubs will undoubtedly get itchy feet and sanction deals that will do them little good in the long-term as they seek to address a disappointing start to the season (Nottingham Forest), the majority will be able to enjoy a quiet evening due to the positive regulations introduced in 2020 and the unfortunate financial implications of the world we currently find ourselves in.
This deadline day might be short of excitement, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing at all.