Matt Scrafton column: Deadline day can sometimes prove little more than a circus

Transfer deadline day is a curious beast, isn’t it?

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 12:40 pm

We – and I include myself in this, unfortunately – all get whipped into a frenzy for 24 hours as clubs desperately try to scramble to get their last-minute deals over the line.

It’s all a bit farcical really; a sham, a circus.

It’ll be exactly the same in four months’ time when we do it all over again on the final day of the January window.

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It’s easy to criticise clubs and say they ought to be better prepared and get their business done well in advance.

If only it was that easy.

It’s the nature of the beast, I’m afraid. All of a sudden, deals that looked implausible earlier in the window become more realistic the closer we get to the deadline.

Players that weren’t available back in June or July then start to free up at the end of August, as other players arrive.

A deal that was too expensive a month or two ago now becomes affordable because the selling club are just desperate to get a player off their books.

The picture was also complicated further this summer because of Euro 2020, which meant star players – especially in the Premier League – were late to return to their parent clubs.

Those clubs in question would keep their youngsters involved during pre-season to make up the numbers, while their star men jetted off on holiday for a well-earned break.

Once the international players returned, they needed a week or two to get back up to speed.

The youngsters would then only become available for loan during the final days of the window.

Case in point, Dujon Sterling. By all accounts he’s been excellent under Thomas Tuchel in pre-season, but Chelsea were only willing to let him go on the final day.

Once he became available, the Seasiders immediately snapped him up.

Had the 21-year-old been available earlier in the window, they may well have faced more intense competition from clubs above them in the Championship.

That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Under Simon Sadler’s ownership, the Seasiders have clearly demonstrated a patience to get the right deals done at the right time and for the right price.

Yes, Sadler has clearly demonstrated he’s willing to put his hands in his pockets – and then some – if the right player becomes available.

However, he’s also an astute, successful businessman. You don’t become that by splashing cash left, right and centre and paying over the odds.

Blackpool are a professionally-run club nowadays.

Gone are the days of the faulty fax machine or the chairman’s phone being switched off on deadline day.

Sadler, Ben Mansford, John Stephenson and co put all the appropriate plans in place. They’re as prepared as you can be.

Two separate lists for recruitment were drawn up weeks in advance of Blackpool’s play-off triumph, one for if they stayed in League One and another in case they were promoted.

So much is out of your hands though, so much relies on other clubs, other players and yes, agents.

The Seasiders often find themselves in a chain, too. While they clearly wanted Jordan Gabriel from the start of the window, and Gabriel himself was always keen to join, Pool had to wait for Nottingham Forest to bring in a replacement or two.

Again, that didn’t happen until the final moments of the window but Blackpool’s patience was rewarded and they’ve got themselves a player they already know all about, who genuinely wants to be at Bloomfield Road. That can’t be overstated.

The ridiculousness of deadline day was only heightened this year by clubs in League One and League Two playing in the EFL Trophy just hours before the window closed.

We had an admittedly comical situation where news of Blackpool’s interest in Matt O’Riley broke just minutes before the midfielder scored an own goal for MK Dons in their game against Burton Albion.

Prior to Oxford United’s game against Cambridge United, Karl Robinson was fending off questions from the press regarding Pool’s late bid for Cameron Brannagan.

It all makes for a fairly ugly final day of business where footballers are treated like commodities. Or even worse, like cattle.

Not that I feel too much sympathy for the players, who will no doubt receive some hefty signing-on fees on top of their over-inflated wages.

However, one particular story emerged on deadline day of a player travelling 200 miles to join a prospective new club, only for the owner of said club to change his mind once he arrived.

It might even be funny if it wasn’t so ridiculous...

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