YOUNGER football fans may not realise it but there was a time when transfer deadline day was not all about Jim White, Harry Redknapp conducting interviews through his car window and snotty-nosed kids from the local estate waving idiotically to mum while standing behind an increasingly anxious-looking reporter from Sky TV.
The day itself, invariably the final Thursday in March, was a largely low-key affair. Sure, plenty of transfers would go through as desperate managers sought the ever-elusive final piece of the jigsaw.
There might also be a bit of late drama as, in the days before fax machines, a club secretary made a mad dash to the Football League offices in Lytham St Annes to register a new signing by the 5pm deadline. Invariably, the following day’s newspapers would talk about the deal having been done “with seconds to spare”.
But, on the whole, transfer deadline day would pass with none of the hype and the hyperbole that accompanied yesterday’s closing of the January window, heralded in the now familiar manner of Big Ben chiming the news that 11pm had finally arrived.
However, while today it might be a full-blooded media event with radio stations and websites up and down the land now buying into Sky’s belief that August 31 and January 31 are second only to Christmas Day in the nation’s affection, deadline day transfers in a simpler age could still prove life-changing for club and supporters alike.
Twenty five years ago, for instance, Leeds United made a double signing on the final Thursday of March that changed everything. Then in their seventh season outside the top flight, Leeds signed Gordon Strachan, then of Manchester United, and Nottingham Forest defender Chris Fairclough for a combined £800,000.
Strachan went on to captain United to promotion in 1990 and then the League title two years later. Fairclough missed just a handful of games in those two seasons and was named Player of the Year in the championship-winning campaign of 1991-92.
No matter how excited Sky got about the chaotic events at Elland Road last night, the chances of any deadline-beating signings in English football going on to make as big an impact as Fairclough and Strachan are slim. Ditto any of the signings made last summer.
That said, some important work was done last month and, here in Yorkshire, perhaps the happiest managers will be Steve Bruce and Mark Robins.
Hull were, unsurprisingly considering the £120m windfall that accompanies being a Premier League club, the big spenders in the county with Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long arriving for a combined fee of £14m.
Goals have been hard to come by at the KC, as is illustrated by a quick glance at the club’s goalscoring charts which are led by wing-back Robbie Brady with just four goals. In second place is Matty Fryatt with three goals, while a host of players are joint third with two apiece.
For a team hoping to stay among the elite, those statistics need improving – which is why Bruce splashed an unprecedented amount of cash to bring in Jelavic and Long. The news yesterday that Jake Livermore, linked overnight with a possible return to parent club Tottenham Hotspur, is staying at the KC for the rest of the season was further cause for Bruce to smile.
Huddersfield, meanwhile, also recruited well with Nahki Wells arriving for an initial £1.2m that, courtesy of add-ons, will soon represent a record fee.
The Bermuda international has already netted twice in his first three games to underline what a bargain the Terriers have got themselves, especially in a market where Wayne Hennessey yesterday cost £3m.
Town this week rejecting a £1m bid from Brighton & Hove Albion for Adam Clayton may not have been as eye-catching as the poaching of Bradford City’s top scorer. But, in terms of the club’s long-term prospects, being able to turn down a seven-figure fee for a player that cost just £200,000 is surely as good an indication as to how stable Huddersfield are right now.
Fifteen miles or so down the A62, however, the same cannot be said for Leeds with yesterday bordering on the farcical, as the manager’s sacking was followed by the club captain being quizzed live on Sky whether he wanted to follow Brian McDermott out of Elland Road.
Elsewhere in the Championship, January was all about strengthening squads that had ended 2013 in relegation trouble.
On that score, the managers of Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, Middlesbrough and Doncaster Rovers have all been busy. Of the signings made, Billy Sharp’s capture by Paul Dickov looks the standout transfer.
It will also be fascinating to see how Nick Proschwitz and Jack Hunt fare at Oakwell following their arrival on loan, while Benik Afobe – a tremendous prospect when on loan at Huddersfield a couple of years ago – looks another sound capture by Stuart Gray.
Into League One and Bradford fans were, no doubt, gutted to see Wells depart, especially to one of their bitterest rivals. But, in Aaron Mclean, Phil Parkinson has plugged the gap with someone proven at League One level.
Yorkshire’s best hope of a promotion success this season are Rotherham United and Steve Evans has again been busy. His signings look astute, while the extension to the loans of Haris Vuckic and James Tavernier were particularly welcome.
At Bramall Lane, Nigel Clough’s trio of new signings – Stefan Scougall, Bob Harris and John Brayford – impressed on their debuts in the FA Cup against Fulham, while in League Two Nigel Worthington’s re-modelling of the York City squad continued with Keith Lowe and Russell Penn being the key new additions in the fight to stay in the League.