Chasing players can be a thankless task

The introduction of the transfer window for Football League clubs in recent years as part of FIFA's regulations has revolutionised the way in which all clubs set about their transfer business each year.

The introduction of the transfer window for Football League clubs in recent years as part of FIFA's regulations has revolutionised the way in which all clubs set about their transfer business each year.

In years gone by clubs were able to trade players all year round, with the exception of the final few weeks of the season, after the so called transfer deadline day (the fourth Thursday in March) which prevented clubs effectively buying success or their way out of trouble at the foot of the table.

Now, with the exception of emergency loans, which are only available to Football League clubs, all football clubs have to plan their trading within the two windows. The summer window operates from the end of one season until the following August 31 and the January window is open from January 1 until midnight on January 31.

These artificial trading windows create a real frenzy amongst supporters, media and clubs alike.


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Clubs who have stated their desire to trade within these periods come under immediate scrutiny from their local media and supporters as to why all transactions are not completed on the first day of the window opening. There is little understanding as to why, referring to the January window in this instance, that January 31 will see the highest number of deals completed.

Peter Grant has gone on record as stating it is his desire to bring in new faces during this January window and he has already upgraded the emergency loan signing of Luke Chadwick to a permanent deal and also brought in Chris Brown from Sunderland.

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However, it is not a straightforward process. Even under the old system there were so many elements to any transfer transaction, now, with the artificial timescale in place there is an added obstacle to overcome.

Put simply, it is very difficult to persuade clubs to release players unless they have a replacement player lined up and quite often their preferred replacement will not be released until such time as the club they are buying from has a replacement lined up and so on ad infinitum. It can be something of a domino effect with several deals being completed once one, at the top of the chain, has toppled into effect.

This was certainly the case with Sunderland who, having bought Carlos Edwards and Andrew Stokes were then prepared to release Chris Brown and Jon Stead.

However, as the closing of the window looms, the clubs' thought processes begin to change. Pressure may be brought to bear by boards of directors seeking to gain the best value for a player, particularly if he is out of contract this season. And from a buying perspective some clubs might become desperate - all of which can distort the price of players within this artificial period.

I was astounded to see Rowan Vine move from Luton to Birmingham recently for a reported fee of £2.5 million. When we enquired about the player a week or two beforehand we were led to believe that a fee of £750,000 should be enough to persuade Luton to part with the player. Birmingham's 'desperation' to secure the player, plus interest from one or two other clubs, soon catapulted the player's value to this astronomic level.

As ever there are always one or two clubs who can afford to take a real gamble at this time of the year in an attempt to either win promotion or avoid relegation and this season, in the Championship, Birmingham, Derby and Sunderland have all spent big. Quite often we have been in direct competition with these clubs for players and it certainly makes things tough.

Peter and myself have been exceptionally busy this month trying to conclude deals to bring players to Carrow Road.

There have been a number of instances when Peter has received a positive reaction to his calls of enquiry only for the proverbial goalposts to be moved at the last minute. More than once injuries at the club from which we have been hoping to secure a player have led to deals breaking down as the manager is reluctant to reduce his resources in a particular position any further.

Last weekend we spent many hours discussing a permanent move with a player having agreed a fee with his club and finally agreeing the player's personal terms with his agent. Everything looked set to be completed on Monday or Tuesday of this week only for the player's domestic situation to change his mind. His heavily pregnant wife eventually decided she didn't want to relocate at such a crucial time in their lives.

That was disappointing. Everyone had put so much time and effort into the negotiations only for them to fall through for reasons other than football and finance.

We are left with no alternative though other than to dust ourselves down and get back on the phone and that has certainly been the case. We remain hopeful of attracting one or two more new faces to Carrow Road before the window closes, but, as ever, we will be keeping our progress as quiet as possible until such time as any deal is complete because you can never be completely confident until the ink is dry on the contract.

I hope this article gives you a small insight into some of the issues confronting clubs as they try to strengthen their squads ahead of February 1. It is never as easy as it might appear from the outside!

On the ball, City!

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