THE more things change, the more things stay the same.
Okay, maybe not when it comes to Leeds United’s rather clumsy attempts to launch a new badge last week, with supporters making it clear the club should have left well alone.
But, when it comes to Yorkshire’s football brethren and the January transfer window, the years may roll by but some things remain reassuringly familiar.
As the clock ticks down towards the deadline, Hull City will, it seems, always be frantically rushing around trying to get deals over the line at the eleventh hour.
Barnsley will also be busy behind the scenes, as will Middlesbrough. And while Jordan Rhodes, signed by the Owls and Boro in the final minutes of the last two January windows, may not have made it a hat-trick of deadline day moves yesterday, the striker was once again a man in demand as Sunderland tried to get a loan deal over the line before eventually turning elsewhere.
Similar ‘will he, won’t he?’ sagas were played out all over the county, from Oakwell to Valley Parade and on to the KCOM Stadium, as what had been a desperate January on the field for most of our ten clubs – four failed to win at all in the league, while the tally of seven combined victories was dwarfed by 18 defeats – focused minds.
At times, White Rose speculation became so rife that supporters were pressing the ‘refresh’ button frequently enough on smartphones and tablets in search of a positive update that many were in danger of developing a repetitive strain injury long before 11pm came around.
The exception, as with previous windows under David Wagner, was Huddersfield Town. As all the madness unfolded elsewhere, the Terriers chief, having finished his business early, was in the familiar position of watching on from afar as Sky’s hyperbole reached new heights.
This sense of little changing for Yorkshire’s clubs, regardless of what year the calendar reads, extends to the sense this morning that the past month is likely to define how the season pans out from hereon in.
The stakes, thanks to the TV riches that accompany a place in the Premier League, are highest for Huddersfield.
Wagner’s priority as Big Ben chimed in the new year was to address the areas of his squad that had been shown up to be lacking at the very top level.
A number ‘10’ was needed along with a defender able to operate either on the flank or in the middle. Alex Pritchard arrived from Norwich City to, Wagner hopes, solve the first problem, Monaco’s Terence Kongolo the latter.
Kongolo, impressive against Liverpool on Tuesday night, looks an astute capture but the fear remains that Town still lack the creativity in midfield to survive at the very top level.
Barring Middlesbrough and perhaps Sheffield United, January was a pretty dire month results-wise for Yorkshire’s Championship representatives.
Leeds United have looked to address that by bringing in Laurens De Bock, Tyler Roberts and Adam Forshaw for a combined £7m but the problem positions of goalkeeper and central defence remain unsolved.
Chris Wilder landed a couple of long-standing targets for Sheffield United that have brought welcome additional depth to his squad. But the lack of a ‘wow’ signing by a club who received substantial windfalls from last summer’s transfers involving Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire may lead to the Blades finding it tough to last the pace in a division where the likes of Fulham, Aston Villa and Derby County are growing stronger with each passing week behind runaway leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Middlesbrough, too, are moving through the gears under Tony Pulis, whose coup of landing highly-rated Jack Harrison from Manchester City just a day after his arrival from the Premier League’s sister club in New York has parallels with Huddersfield’s key capture of Aaron Mooy from Melbourne via the Etihad last season.
Another new manager making an impact is Jos Luhukay, who has steadied what was a tilting ship at Hillsborough. His best work in January has been to restore confidence and discipline to the Owls.
Elsewhere, Hull and Barnsley had a frantic final few hours of the window. The Reds, under new owners in this window for the first time, can be happier with their work than the Tigers, who were last night facing a fight to hold on to Michael Dawson and Kamil Grosicki as the clock ticked down towards the deadline.
As with a year ago in League One when Charlie Wyke signed with hours to spare, Bradford City were hoping to strike late in the hunt for a striker but this time come up short after Chesterfield pulled the plug on Kristian Dennis’ proposed switch.
The window, though, did at least close with Tony McMahon and Charlie Wyke, both on the radar of other clubs, still at Valley Parade.
Elsewhere in the third tier, Rotherham United had big boots to fill when Kieffer Moore’s loan spell was cut short but Martin Smith’s goal on full debut suggests Paul Warne may have done just that with the 6ft 4in loanee from Bury.
Doncaster Rovers, meanwhile, brought in cover for injured duo Andy Butler and Issam Ben Khemis.