AS the clock ticked towards the closure of this summer’s transfer window on Thursday night, Charlie Wyke could not help but chuckle about his own naivety on the previous deadline day.
The final day of January had begun with the 24-year-old relaxing at home in Middlesbrough, his 18th goal of the season for Carlisle United in a 1-1 draw with Barnet still fresh in the mind.
In the build-up to taking on the Bees, there had been plenty of chatter about a possible move to Bradford City but, with the window by now well into its final 24 hours, Wyke looked to be staying at Brunton Park, at least until the summer.
Then came the telephone call to inform him a £250,000 deal had been agreed and that he had to get himself to Manchester, via Valley Parade, for a medical.
The race was on to complete a deal that manager Stuart McCall had pushed hard for since James Hanson’s departure to Sheffield United 10 days earlier.
“Deadline day was really hectic last January,” the Bantams striker told The Yorkshire Post. “I only found out about Bradford (being interested) with about a week to go (of the window). There had been a lot of talk before, but it was only later that I found out something might happen.
“It was probably about three days to go when things got a bit busier and I was talking to the chairman. But, if I am honest, I didn’t think anything would happen the closer we got to the deadline.
“So, I just put it out of the mind. Carlisle were playing so I managed to do it, even though I had team-mates saying, ‘You better not get injured tonight, or Bradford won’t want you’ or, ‘You can’t have a bad game because the deal will be off’. The lads were great like that.”
Once the call had come to say Bradford’s bid had been accepted, Wyke jumped into his white Mercedes and headed south. Once at Valley Parade, and conscious that time was ticking away, he headed straight for the main reception – and it was then that the striker’s naivety alerted supporters, via social media, that the deal was on.
“My car was a bit of a schoolboy mistake,” laughs Wyke at the memory. “I parked it on double yellows, with the personal number plate ‘C9 WYK’ on it. And, of course, someone spotted it and put a photo on social media. I only found out later.
“I was right outside the stadium and hadn’t parked very well, either. Thankfully, there were no traffic wardens around that day or I could have been in trouble. Anyway, the number plate meant everyone knew what was happening – and, yes, I have got rid of it since then.”
With Wyke’s car sitting not only on double yellow lines but also a good couple of feet from the kerb as he headed to Manchester with a member of the medical staff, it was a good thing that the traffic wardens were not on patrol as the shine might have been taken off an otherwise proud day.
As it was, the striker passed the medical and was making a goalscoring debut just four days later in a 2-2 draw with Gillingham.
“It was such a long day,” he recalls. “The phone call came in the morning, saying I had to get to Manchester for the medical and then I didn’t get home until 12.30am. But everything was worth it.”
Deadline day was a bit calmer for Wyke and City this time around. McCall’s summer-long search for a right-sided centre-half had ended the previous afternoon with the loan capture of Adam Thompson from Bury, meaning other than securing goalkeeping cover – Lukas Raeder came in from Germany – there was little else in the Bradford chief’s in-tray.
Wyke, too, was able to return to his usual vantage point for the final few hours of a window – at home on the sofa. “I haven’t missed one deadline day on Sky in five years, apart from last January when I was driving back home,” he said.
“I just sit there with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit and watch all the speculation. There have been some crazy deals over the years. As a player, you get caught up in it. It is fun when you see a mate or even a team-mate (getting transferred). I have texted a couple in the past and said, ‘You didn’t tell me about this?’ But they can’t, everything has to be kept under wraps.”
Moves have been made to bring the closing of the window forward to before the season starts.
Others would like to see the old system of any deals being possible until the third Thursday in March brought back. Wyke, however, likes things as they are.
“It is just normal now to have a window,” he said. “Maybe it could be closed before a season starts to stop players leaving. Managers probably want that to happen, as they want to keep hold of their best players when bigger teams come calling.
“But, to me, it just makes things more interesting. I watched the final hours as usual this year on Sky. After what happened to me in January, I was feeling sorry for them as I knew how busy their day would be.”
Wyke is today expected to make only his second start of the season as Bradford host Bristol Rovers, injury having kept the striker out for five weeks during the summer.
“It was frustrating to be out so long,” he added, “and especially so early in the year.
“Getting injured in the pre-season is not nice. All the lads are getting to know each other and there was me, having to sit in the physio room. To be fair, everyone integrated really quickly, but I missed a bit of that.
“The reception I got off the fans, though, on my return was brilliant. Everyone welcomed me back and that was really nice to hear. As for me, I feel good. I am not fully 100 per cent fit yet, but I will, hopefully, get there in the next few weeks.”