Wednesday 2 September ~
In the last few years, transfer deadline day has become the Premier League’s Christmas Day. Newspapers scream about this year's must-have purchase (Robinho, Emile Heskey, a Rubik’s cube), last-minute panic buying results in long-term disappointment, and there's an inevitable return to the grind after an inglorious celebration of consumption. So, if this year's deadline is anything to go by, Christmas 2009 will be one in which the middle children subtly upgrade their toy cupboards while the spoilt kids take the unprecedented step of completely ignoring the celebrations, presuming they have enough Lego to make it to Easter.
The fact that yesterday’s biggest deal was second in football news to a two-game European ban in the group section of the Champions League (Eduardo) sums up a year of financial deflation within football. After last year’s excitement over the Robinho-Chelsea-Manchester City and Dimitar Berbatov-Manchester City-Manchester United love triangles the star signing of this year’s deadline day was Niko Kranjcar, a replacement at Tottenham for the injured Luka Modric. Meanwhile, Everton completed the signing Jonny Heitinga for £6m and Aston Villa spent £11m on James Collins and Richard Dunne, as the teams on the edge of the Big Four attempted to catch up with the non-spending big boys.
Kranjcar was the only positive result of a day of supposed “wheeler-dealing” from Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, a process by which you attempt to arrange a lot of transfer deals, but in a cockney accent. When Martin Jol tried a similar manoeuvre at Tottenham it was simply an indecisive management structure. Kranjcar, meanwhile, was happy to move because “the tradition and greatness of Tottenham made the difference”, supporting again a footballer’s love for success in another era.
He became the third ex-Portsmouth player to join Tottenham under Redknapp, and David James could, apparently, have been the fourth if the manager had had his wheeler-dealing way. Along with Martin Petrov, Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson, it was a day of missing out for Spurs, a team whose early-season form has seen the usual September discussion of the Big Four being broken up. It is a notion that is usually discounted due the “quality additions” available to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United if things start to go wrong for them. Are the signs from transfer deadline day that this year could be different? Josh Widdicombe