Transfer tittle-tattle leads to a world of confusion
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm heartily sick of the transfer window. Whilst it's a wonderful excuse for Sky to crank up the hyperbole and for Jim White to practice his hyperventilating, it's a major distorting factor on the development of this season's Premier League, particularly with the big kick-off occurring almost a month before deadline day.
What annoys me most about it is how it encourages bad business practice by constantly playing on the hopes of fans, who in turn demand that their clubs throw money at targets rather than seeking the best deal. Day after day rumours emerge, some clearly fabricated, others containing a grain of truth and as fans are presented with a veritable smorgasbord of names, some more appetising than others, discontent inevitably grows if signings fail to materialise.
Whether those signings were ever genuine targets in the first place is a completely different matter, but with the modern attitude that anything that appears on the internet often enough must be true, there will inevitably be those happy to believe the stories, and I suspect that Alex Neil's increasing reluctance to comment on transfer activity is directly related to this issue.
With the ridiculously inflated prices that a money-saturated market place generates it's difficult for clubs with budgets as limited as City's to land their primary targets quickly (unless of course you believe that the club has just been handed a non-earmarked cheque for £120m, in which case I've got some really disappointing news for you about Santa Claus).
It's also a nightmare for columnists. As I submit this piece yesterday all sorts of transfer permutations are possible, both incoming and outgoing, before it appears in today's paper, so bear with me!
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I'm sure that Alex Neil could have done without Grabbangate in the build-up to the weekend, but his impressive coolness and the way in which he handled the media will have enhanced his already glowing reputation in Norfolk and beyond.
It's sometimes hard to believe that the Scot is just 34 years old when he displays a maturity in dealing with the pressures of his job that the likes of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho seem unable to match. The most surprising aspect of the Lewis Grabban incident is that a player was either brave enough or stupid enough to risk Neil's wrath. I suspect it won't happen again.
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Regardless of off-field issues, tomorrow's game probably represents City's toughest test so far this season, although Southampton's Europa Cup trip to Denmark on Thursday won't have done anything to harm the Canaries' chances. Saints have made great strides since they returned to the top flight and have developed a string of exciting young prospects, the sale of some of which have bankrolled what is now an impressive squad.
While there is no doubt that tomorrow will be a real examination for Neil's side, how pleasant it is to be approaching away games in the Premier League with anticipation rather than apprehension. The fearless and expansive style that City have shown in their three opening games augurs well for the future and contrasts dramatically with the excessive caution of the Chris Hughton era.
Positivity won't always pay dividends, but it's so much more appealing to travel knowing that, if your side goes down, it will go down fighting. Whether any new faces will have arrived in time to be involved tomorrow seems unlikely at the time of writing, but several of the fringe players did their prospects no harm at Rotherham and there is a real sense we could be on the verge of something special this season if the right additions can be brought into a squad that is already gelling nicely.