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1
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2
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4
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 Posted by Iain Macintosh
Sep 2, 2014

Transfer window should know its place

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol and Craig Burley share which teams they think did the best business in the summer transfer window.

Apologies were quickly made by pensive presenters and the show went on, but something had changed. You could see the anxiety that swirled behind their eyes.

After years of increasingly playful, self-referential hyperbole, the innocence of their transfer deadline day was lost and they knew it. How could they not? A man had just been violated in the ear with a sex toy on live television. I don't care how professional you are, that's the kind of thing that makes you stop and think.

British broadcaster Sky Sports News have made a sort of land grab in recent years, claiming ownership of the deadline day, making it their deadline day by branding it, colour coding it, rolling around in it like an ecstatic dog in a patch of suspiciously browned turf.

And, for all the sniffiness of their competitors, they've done it well, utilising their flexibility, their contacts and their rolling eternity of broadcast time to punch up enormous viewing figures, all for something that comedian David Mitchell once said was "essentially human resources."

But that may change now after a night that was punctuated with the sort of moments that would send even the boldest TV producer straight into the broom cupboard for a quiet cry.

And perhaps that's a good thing.

For the occasional moments of excitement, deadline day can actually be very dull. This is a dangerous thing to say for someone who enjoys a twice-yearly spot discussing it all on Norwegian TV but I think you know it too and I respect you too much to try to deceive you.

As astonishing as the Fernando Torres/Andy Carroll night in January 2011 was, I can remember final days that were dominated by discussions of Sotirios Kyrgiakos' loan move to Sunderland, or Lee Cattermole's on-off move (it turned out to be off) to Aston Villa. The truth is that the better-run clubs complete their business early and leave the rest to scramble.

Falcao's arrival at Man United was a major move but it was not one that was a major surprise late on deadline day.

In general, on the final day, there are few surprises. On Monday, the Falcao story broke before lunch in England and we all knew Danny Welbeck was going to Arsenal by dinner time. Had you gone to bed early, you would have woken up Tuesday morning and been entirely unsurprised by the headlines, having fortunately missed that strange period when a fake Twitter account made us think that Falcao might have failed his Manchester United medical.

So much of this increasingly odd day is contrived anyway. Is it even a deadline? It's not as if administrators are spotted sprinting across car parks, papers in their hands, stopping dead when a Klaxon rings out across the night sky, cursing themselves for their lack of physical fitness.

There are loopholes and extensions everywhere and yet we've started to treat it like New Year's Eve, counting down the seconds until a nonexistent ball drops in an imaginary Times Square to the sound of no one singing.

But none of this stops TV reporters from turning up at every training ground, swiftly followed by hordes of supporters. And while those hordes are good natured at first, boredom soon sets in. How could it not? You're watching a man in a big coat stand in front of a wall and speak for three minutes every half hour. How long can you watch that before the desire for mischief overwhelms you?

Watching from abroad, a curious feeling of detachment always develops. It's as if you were one of the lucky ones, able to scramble onto a helicopter and escape the city as it fell to the zombies. Now, safely ensconced in a bunker overseas, you watch via satellite as your nation disintegrates, feeding on itself in an orgy of mindless hooting.

You stare in horror as isolated broadcasters are surrounded, crowded, stared at and jostled by fans licking their lips as they patiently wait to strike. Take the Arsenal supporters wielding potatoes at the Emirates Stadium. Was it a "spuds" dig at their local rivals Tottenham or were they set to use them as weapons, cracking open the skulls of the press and feeding on their exposed brains? It was probably the former, but you do worry.

Amid the human carnage, there is nobility. When Alan Irwin was aurally penetrated against his will, he barely skipped a beat, continuing to elaborate on Tom Cleverley's future like the radio man on the Titanic, resolutely tapping out his SOS even as the icy water lapped around his ankles. Another reporter was struck with an inflatable woman, but ploughed on regardless.

However, when a member of the public ran in front of the camera and bellowed something eye-wateringly offensive into innumerable English front rooms, context shifted. Meetings will now be held, wrists will be slapped and somewhere a health and safety representative will feel obliged to say something they never dreamed they'd say at work: "What if that sex toy had been a knife?"

None of us got into football for this. We worship goals, not transfers. We weren't bewitched by balance sheets as kids, our first memory isn't standing up and roaring in celebration of a positive net spend and there were no posters of chief executives on our bedroom walls.

We need to take a step backwards and accept the day for what it is: a mostly underwhelming shifting of the sands that provides a nice, narrative preamble to the main event.

If it takes the sight of a man with a sex toy in his ear to make that point, so be it.

Iain Macintosh

Iain Macintosh is a U.K. football correspondent for The New Paper in Singapore, writer for ESPN and co-author of "Football Manager Stole My Life" from @backpagepress. You can follow him on Twitter @iainmacintosh.

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