The dark art of January – not that we’d now have it any other way

"I'll give you X and Y for £Z" - Chris Hughton and Brendan Rodgers share a chat before Saturdays game; one almost certainly not revolving around the current transfer window. Picture: Dave Rawcliffe / Focus Images

Thursday, January 24, 2013
1:07 PM

My podcast-listening ritual is still in catch-up mode following the Christmas and New Year festivities – but there’s nothing like the January transfer window to make a broadcast barely two weeks old sound painfully out of date.

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Just saying…

• If you like your season ticket news to come in two-year blocks and you’re sure of Premier League football, the club’s announcement over 2013-14 wasn’t too bad – this is of course in the context of Premier League football. It’s now a hugely expensive hobby. Add to that how easy it is to watch any game live, and how difficult the financial landscape is in the real world – which Premier League football is totally disconnected from – and it’s clear the issue of ticket prices for clubs and the league won’t be going away.

• It’s been a while since I saw a Premier League performance from the Canaries that reminded me of 2004-05, but Saturday did it. It’s one thing going away from home planning not to get beaten – but when there seems to be no obvious plan to affect the game if that goes wrong, it poses big questions over the rest of term.

• The reality is if Southampton now prosper with Mauricio Pochettino, it was the right move. But there is absolutely no class in sacking Nigel Adkins – and even worse is not even mentioning him in their matchday programme on Monday.

The case in point involved esteemed Fleet Street sport hacks chatting over two big January stories – one proclaimed as very likely and “a good fit”; the other a “100 per cent” certainty.

Fast forward 10 days or so and Galatasaray were boasting their coup in signing Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan – no sign of Liverpool proving they were that ‘good fit’ then.

The other was the English football ‘snub’ from Pep Guardiola, who moved from one supporter-owned club in Barcelona to another – the team in Germany known only for once being conquered in Europe by Norwich City. Possibly.

Guardiola’s agreement to take over at Bayern Munich from next season presumably followed his phone calls from New York to Manchester City and Chelsea saying ‘thanks but no thanks’.

His Munich move was sorted out several weeks ago, while Inter – presumably known only as the Canaries’ European slayers – agreed to Galatasaray’s bid more than a fortnight previous.

Listening to the podcast made me smile – nothing expressed the dark art of January and its transfer window better.

While the month can drag, deadline day is always fun for fans and those involved in the game. The amount of chatter – especially from agents – is frightening and there are more sources around than a Heinz warehouse.

With Twitter’s presence continuing to grow, anyone can have a go at being ITK (‘in the know’, don’t you know). One 18-year-old did just that 12 months ago, making up rumours and then waiting for them to be picked up by various news organisations.

Clearly, some rumours are true and others frivolous. The hunches, hedging of bets and – for some fans and clubs – desperation give January its unique place in the football calendar. A place that won’t be going away any time soon.

Back to Pep and Wesley, there are other debates to be had. While the pair would have been a welcome addition to the Premier League, the fact they’ve opted for elsewhere shouldn’t be ignored.

It certainly shouldn’t be seen as a snub either – some people can get a little blinkered when it comes to English football. But on whether the Premier League holds the same draw as previously touted, it’s too soon to tell.

Clearly other leagues can offer the cash and the challenge just as well as here.

Fifa’s top awards night featured few from our top-flight and when European competition strikes up again after this month, our two remaining Champions League sides will remind themselves of the tough task awaiting them just to make the quarter-finals.

That may well make Arsenal and Manchester United’s January recruitment all the more necessary.

So if that doesn’t leave scope for a few more January certainties surrounding David Villa, Cesc Fabregas and Wilfried Zaha then I don’t know what does.

Although I’m not sure we would now want it any other way.

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