Roger Moore scores: transfer window blues

Last updated : 10 January 2007 By Roger Moore
What do you feel about the January transfer window? I hate it.

I feel like a pig in a straw house hoping and preying that there are too many other straw houses between us and Mr Wolf. Only, I know in my heart of hearts that we and another 80-odd clubs are actually living in Strawsville, surrounded not just by wolves but also a sea of sharks, not to mention the several thousand vultures circling overhead.

Transfer window spells excitement for maybe ten Premiership clubs, those fighting near the top of the table with the ultra-tempting prospect of Champions' League football, and those with wealthy backers and the promise of ‘golden hellos' and unrealistic wage demands being met.

And let's not forget, it's not just the better Premiership players who able to demand and receive extortionate wages. Word reaches me that Collins John is expecting £23K a week to play for Watford and unlike David Ginola, it can't be because he's worth it!

The idea of the transfer window seems sound. Restricting the movement of players between clubs to two periods of the year should bring some hope and stability to diamond-mine clubs like ours. We unearth the gem and, theory has it, are at least able to covet it without fear of prospectors between September and January, and February and May.

But is that really how it works? Are we really so naïve to believe that conversation commences on the 1st and concludes on the 31st of this month? And haven't we actually created a season hiatus, a chance for managers to focus on transfer dealing, when in the past they would have been too busy worrying about results?

I don't have the statistics to hand, but I wonder how much transfer activity there really was between September and May before this ludicrous cattle auction reared its ugly head.

How easy was it for an agent to tout an unhappy player to clubs embroiled in survival or a race for honours? How could a player demand a transfer mid-season without signing up for bench-warming duty or a spell in the reserves? How did the manager justify time spent trawling rather than landing his own catch?

Let's face it, the January transfer window is not a window at all. Windows let in light and air. January spells darkness and the suffocation of lower club dreams. And if it's not being done to you, you're doing it to someone else – we know exactly what trickles down and it's not pleasant.

The planners in their wisdom and with all good intentions envisaged a January window as a safeguard for the smaller clubs – clubs like ours. Of course, like countless governments and administrators before them, solutions created in good faith are prone to benefit opportunists.

And no-one benefits from January more than agents. Where a player and manager might not have given transfer speculation a passing thought, now a floodgate is opened and even the most Canute-like Chairman cannot stem the tide.

Now the manager sees a mid-winter chance to rectify mistakes made in close season. The player need no longer signal a transfer demand, and the agents need no longer fight for attention above the clamour of fixture congestion. Now there is a bona-fide rationale for player-trading mid-season.

This brings us to our on nugget, Gareth Bale. Only time will tell whether Bale is committed to a short-term future helping the club who unearthed his talent to fulfil his and its promise. In truth, every player is now a free agent, although the terms ‘free' and ‘agent' are as unlikely an oxymoron as you will find these days.

But I have a small piece of advice for the young Welshman.

Life, like a football career, is short. Money, with all its trappings, cannot buy a piece of history, and that is what is at stake for Southampton Football club this season. Winning the Championship is not the Champions' League but it would be the first silverware to have arrived in Southampton since the Queen Mary's dinner service.

And that could put Bale in the same bracket as former heroes with an early taste of genuine and much celebrated success. Then, if he chooses to move to bigger and better things, so be it. I know at seventeen, six months is a lifetime. At double the age it's the blink of an eye, my son.

Just don't be blinded by the money, Gareth. All that glitters is not gold.