ON even the quietest deadline days for Yorkshire football, Hull City can usually be relied upon to add a large dollop of drama to proceedings.
Who, for instance, can forget the evening in September, 2014, that saw Hatem Ben Arfa get so lost en route from Newcastle to Hull as the clock ticked ever closer to 11pm that the France international was forced to plead with the night manager of a York hotel to fax the necessary paperwork with his signature?
Then there was the time Steve Bruce set up camp in Paris to ensure a deal to sign Dame N’Doye got over the line, while the double capture of Dieumerci Mbokani and Markus Henriksen came so late one year that most supporters had gone to bed.
Yesterday saw Hull maintain their record of having signed at least one new player during the final 24 hours of the last ten windows after Liam Ridgewell joined as a free agent. Compared to those other frantic finales, however, it was an unusually calm day on the banks of the Humber as the additions targeted by Nigel Adkins failed to materialise.
Ehab Allam, the club’s vice chairman, insists this was not for the want of trying as City looked to strengthen a squad that has soared from third bottom at the start of December to the fringes of the play-offs.
“In many ways we have been the victims of our own success,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “Our rise up the table has made others more wary. There have been occasions when a Championship club was sending a loan player back to the Premier League only to then find we were interested in that player and, suddenly, he is staying.
In many ways we have been the victims of our own success. Our rise up the table has made others more wary.Ehab Allam
“Others we have approached about players have responded by trying to involve our own key players in any deal. We made a commitment at the start of the window that those key players would not leave and we stuck to that. But it has made for a frustrating window. We were left with the options of looking at the top end of League One or untried teenagers from the Premier League. But there is never any merit in making signings for the sake of it.”
Hull’s January recruitment amounted to Ridgewell and Marc Pugh, the Bournemouth winger. Nigel Adkins must hope the duo can make an impact similar to that made by Harry Wilson a year ago on loan from Liverpool.
It is a similar story across the county as the dust settles on a window that, thanks to so many of our clubs being embroiled in either promotion or relegation fights, had the look of being crucial from the very start.
Huddersfield Town, the county’s sole top-flight representative, already bear the look of a club cutting its financial cloth accordingly as relegation looms.
Karlan Grant, the Charlton Athletic striker, arrives with plenty of promise but it will surely be against Championship defences that the 21-year-old, labelled “a natural goalscorer” by new Terriers head coach Jan Siewert, should be judged.
A quartet of White Rose clubs are hoping to replace Town next term. Leeds United, six points and two places above Sheffield United, continue to set the pace at the top of the Championship.
Marcelo Bielsa pulled off a major coup in signing Kiko Casilla from Real Madrid. The Spanish goalkeeper, who boasts three Champions League medals, is arguably the most glamorous of January’s imports to the Broad Acres and last week’s debut at Rotherham United brought proof of his ability via a stunning save to deny Will Vaulks.
Even with the deal to sign Daniel James hanging in the balance last night, Leeds, whose injury crisis is easing, are in decent shape. Sheffield United, too, can be happy with a January that saw Chris Wilder, despite being restricted to loan signings, plugging three notable gaps in his squad by bringing in Scott Hogan, Gary Madine and Kieran Dowell.
The Blades now enjoy a depth of squad that simply was not there a year ago when their season began to tail off, the capture of Dowell, in particular, key as it means United finally have an alternative to Mark Duffy if the Liverpudlian is having a rare off day.
John Obi Mikel, pictured, is a fascinating addition by Boro but goals are what the Riverside faithful demand and this month looks to have done precious little to solve that problem, while the top six is likely to prove a bridge too far for Hull.
Steve Bruce, on his unveiling at Sheffield Wednesday yesterday, admitted pace was lacking in his new squad. Dominic Iorfa’s addition from Wolverhampton Wanderers is a step towards rectifying that weakness, as is the capture of Newcastle United duo Achraf Lazaar and Rolando Aarons.
Rotherham United, meanwhile, are in a rut. Just two wins since mid-September meant the Millers went into the window needing a big lift. Matt Crooks arrived from Northampton but Paul Warne has all on to keep his side up.
In League One, Doncaster Rovers fending off late interest from Sunderland in John Marquis was hugely important.
As, for struggling Bradford City, it was a frantic final day that saw Billy Clarke return to the club as Jacob Butterfield joined his home town team.
These two late deals, together with the retention of Jack Payne and George Miller on loan, makes the Bantams arguably the county’s big winners in what proved to be an unusually quiet January window.