The Mad­ness of Trans­fer Dead­line Day!

By in Niall Quinn's Route One

On my first trans­fer dead­line day as chair­man of Sun­der­land we signed six play­ers. People have no idea of the stress. Six play­ers is six sets of paper work, six cop­ies of every page and an army of physios, doc­tors, law­yers, admin­is­trat­ors and club staff run­ning around in the may­hem.

And the main source of panic was keep­ing the six play­ers and their agents apart dur­ing the day. We didn’t want them com­par­ing notes on what deals they were get­ting so we shuttled the play­ers and their entour­ages here and there between train­ing ground, sta­dium, offices, physio rooms and external scan­ning centres. It was like an Eal­ing com­edy.

People who work in the life­boat ser­vice say that you never hear a boat skip­per call­ing in a calm, may­day sig­nal. They always wait till the last minute when the water is slosh­ing around their knees and the boat is sink­ing before they get on the radio to scream MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

On a more trivial level that’s what trans­fer dead­line day is like in foot­ball. The old sea dog man­ager who spent the sum­mer at the helm suck­ing on a pipe and say­ing things like “steady as she blows, me hearties” is run­ning this week like a head­less chicken, scream­ing MAYDAY! MAYDAY. Quick, man the cheque­books before we all go down.

(Being able to scream for the cheque­book while head­less is one of the things that make Premi­er­ship man­agers spe­cial)

After all these years of dead­line day it still seems to take some clubs by sur­prise. You’d think by now some of the big­ger clubs who have the sort of money that makes the whole thing so much fun would know when to stick and when to twist. What, it’s dead­line day already? Why didn’t you wake us earlier?

Still, long may it last. It’s not per­fect and people com­plain about it but the two trans­fer dead­line days in a sea­son have become enter­tain­ment in them­selves. It’s the last chance saloon for man­agers, agents, play­ers, chair­men. Pure enter­tain­ment, if you’re not feel­ing the stress your­self.

When dead­line day looms everything sud­denly looks like a life­boat. That striker in Spain who had a little of everything and not enough of any­thing back in July? He’s The One. Have to have him…I know he’s just right… he makes my heart go pit­ter patter…he com­pletes me.

That winger across town? They’ve just sold their other winger to Ever­ton for good money? Well maybe they’ll sell this one to us for half or noth­ing? Ring them. Offer £12m and some nice PR tweets. What do they need wing­ers for any­way?

Pep Guar­diola, eas­ily one of the two sav­vi­est man­agers in the greater Manchester area, seems to have only figured out after the sea­son star­ted that City’s little known goal­keeper, Joe What­sis­name, doesn’t quite suit his plans.

Even Leicester, who seemed to restore com­mon sense and romance to the world last year, don’t seem to have real­ised until the draw was made on Fri­day that they are actu­ally in the Cham­pi­ons League this sea­son. Now they have to buy Islam Sli­mani, a £30 mil­lion one way ticket from Lis­bon to Leicester, pronto.

I’ve been there. And all human life is there. We had South Amer­ican agents with long hair, long leather coats and sunglasses wan­der­ing around Sun­der­land in Janu­ary. We had over expect­ant fath­ers com­ing in rep­res­ent­ing their sons.

We tried to watch our backs. We tried to keep the upper hand. I still feel guilty about the times we’d book every scan­ning machine in the North East out under ghost names so we’d have first use of them and our Geordie neigh­bours might struggle.

They got their chance for revenge the day we signed Ben­jani, the Zim­b­ab­wean on road from Manchester City. We had six fax machines going nicely when late on the phone lines went down and we missed the dead­line. It seemed we would have to face an inquiry as Arsenal had done when they missed the dead­line with the Arshavin sign­ing a few win­dows earlier. The Premier League, The FA and UEFA told us they would accept the trans­fer though if we could show them a let­ter from the head of BT in the the north east con­firm­ing that the lines had been down and the fault wasn’t ours.

No prob­lem. Except he turned out to be a big New­castle United fan!

In fair­ness he was com­pletely pro­fes­sional about it. And with respect to Ben­jani whose career was wind­ing down, none of our com­pet­it­ors were jump­ing up and down with envy at the pro­spect of us sign­ing him.

This is where you have to hand it to Jose Mour­inho. He didn’t wait until the dead­line day cam­eras were out­side Old Traf­ford, film­ing a stressed reporter against a back­drop of ‘stressed’ fans mak­ing funny faces and wav­ing strange inflat­ables at the cam­era. Jose wanted to spend mad money and he didn’t need any­body pres­sur­ising him into doing it. He did it on his own terms, com­fort­ably out­bid­ding him­self for Paul Pogba and sav­ing him­self a lot of stress this week when about a dozen other man­agers real­ise that a Pogba would “com­plete them”

The lad’s new to the Premi­er­ship have taken a while to get used to the cus­toms and tra­di­tions of dead­line day. Jur­gen Klopp can’t believe the fuss. He soun­ded very quaint (or very Ger­man) when he wondered last week about what happened to the idea of coach­ing play­ers up to the required stand­ard instead of just buy­ing them in as the fin­ished art­icle.

Ant­o­nio Conte says he finds the whole thing “crazy.” He’s work­ing for the firm which helped to research and develop Crazy. If Chelsea find dead­line day prices crazy, what hope is there?

Play­ers get excited too — think Odem­wingie in a Shep­herds Bush back street? Then again the less said the bet­ter on that par­tic­u­lar desec­ra­tion of loy­alty.

I once got myself caught up in a little equal­ity pickle when I star­ted doing Dead­line Day for Sky. To emphas­ize how manic things get I men­tioned that we used to get the girls in the office to leave their high heels at home and wear their plim­soles to run around quicker. Obvi­ously I meant to say that every­body had to leave their high heels at home, myself, Roy Keane and Steve Bruce included.

Each nego­ti­ation was dif­fer­ent. Noth­ing ever straight­for­ward. You did your best to uphold the club’s com­mer­cial pos­i­tion but at the same time you had a man­ager bend­ing your ear: “You have to go fur­ther, we have to have him.”

The own­er­ship is telling you this is the line. “Don’t cross it.” You’d find ways to do the deal dif­fer­ently, maybe hit the agent’s fee late on or plead last minute with the selling club to restruc­ture the trans­fer pay­ment dif­fer­ently.

The med­ic­als were dead­line day med­ic­als. Every club has those. The physio and doc­tor scratch­ing their head unsure. The man­ager say­ing I don’t care if he breaks down in three months I need him now. The agent say­ing it’s six o’clock on dead­line days, we can’t go any­where else. Sign him!

And all the while Sky’s finest report­ers stok­ing the flames from our car park.

Mar­vel­lous Mad­ness.

I’m doing the late shift again on Sky right up to the dead­line. I’m with Paul Mer­son. At some stage I’m sure we’ll look at each other and burst out laugh­ing. The two of us wax­ing on the telly about bil­lion pound dead­line win­dows and multi mil­lion pound deals when as kids at Arsenal we used to struggle to get a few shil­lings together between us to get a few bob down on the dogs at Hack­ney. Whatever happened to the likely lads?



When I was a kid the arrival of col­our TV in Crum­lin was like the arrival of elec­tri­city in rural parts of Ire­land in the fifties. More excite­ment than we could handle.

My great tech­nicolor hero was Gerd Muller, the iconic Ger­man striker (who played in the black and white of Ger­many now that I think of it). I watched the World Cup in 1974 and saw this guy scor­ing goals against the vivid jer­seys of Aus­tralia, Yugoslavia, Poland and then Hol­land. People were heart­broken for the Dutch but this Gerd Muller was like some­thing I’d never seen before. He ter­ror­ised defences. He had thighs that could kick start a jumbo.

And now all these years later I look at the all time inter­na­tional scor­ing lists and Gerd Muller is four­teenth and some fella called Rob­bie Keane is fif­teenth.

How did that hap­pen? I remem­ber Rob­bie Keane. He used to do a somer­sault when he scored. It was rub­bish. Half way between a foot­baller try­ing to cel­eb­rate (when he knew the headed assist to him was the moment of real genius) and an old man fall­ing over. I remem­ber Ken­wyne Jones when he was at Sun­der­land. Now he would do a double back flip, two and half rota­tions. That was a cel­eb­ra­tion. Later Rob­bie Keane went to an ima­gin­ary bow and arrow routine. Arth­ritic it was.

Where do you start with Rob­bie Keane? What can I say about him that hasn’t been said?

A con­fes­sion first. People often ask me about Rob­bie. Selfishly the first thing I think of is what I got out of his career.

He was still in nap­pies when he made his debut for Ire­land. Or I was on a walk­ing frame. I don’t remem­ber which but I know I took one look at him and real­ised that the battle which a few of us had been hav­ing for the Irish goalscor­ing record was some­thing that we’d have to agree never to men­tion again. The kid was going to blow us out of the water and make our little com­pet­i­tion look embar­rass­ing.

I’d done my cru­ci­ate in 1993 and got right again even­tu­ally. I left Man City and went to Sun­der­land and did the other cru­ci­ate in the winter of 1996. I can remem­ber when I was recov­er­ing, I’d miss the Irish matches. They weren’t on TV and fel­las like Jon Good­man from Wimble­don and Mickey Evans from Ply­mouth were play­ing in what I’d come to think of as my jer­sey.

I hated it. It was so frus­trat­ing that I had to be on my own when the matches were on. I’d go down the field to a make shift stable where we had a couple of horses at the time to shovel away the steamy stuff and listen to Gab­riel Egan and Eoin Hand on the radio telling every­one how prom­ising these new fel­las looked. That’s more steamy stuff I’d think.

And then Mick McCarthy might come on and say how pleased he was with these lads and how they were the future. The com­pet­it­ive part of me couldn’t stand it.

I had a lot of people to con­vince when I got back, Mick par­tic­u­larly. Com­ing back in and see­ing Rob­bie and his poten­tial I under­stood quickly that Rob­bie would need a hand in the early years as there was so much expect­a­tion on his shoulders at such a young age. I might not have been a model pro­fes­sional but I delib­er­ately set out to make that space my own. Thank­fully Mick trus­ted me to be able to do that.

I don’t really know what Rob­bie got out of it but I got four mem­or­able extra years onto my career. I got the 2002 World Cup and that amaz­ing night in Ibaraki.

And I get to say that I played with him.

Gen­er­ously he let me hold onto the Irish goalscor­ing record for a few months before he shred­ded it. I prefer now when people just say who the Irish record goalscorer is instead of pub­lish­ing a top five. Myself, Frank, Aldo and Cas felt like Take That in those wil­der­ness years after Rob­bie Wil­li­ams got big. Pop stars are never too old for a comeback though. Foot­ballers just fade away.

He was a joy to be around. He could sing. And sing. And sing. And sing. But as I say, a joy! In the old days you could wind him up and he’d come back at you which was always fun, but Rob­bie learned everything quickly. One day he was the new kid. Next day he was the leader of the pack.

He came from Fet­ter­cairn in Tall­aght and he played for Crum­lin United before he went to Eng­land as a kid. I know being from Crum­lin myself the spe­cial sense of pride he gave to every­body in that stretch of South Dub­lin over the years. He was Ireland’s but more espe­cially it seemed like he was ours.

He gets credit for the goals and his ded­ic­a­tion to the coun­try but I don’t think people ever fully under­stand how well he has car­ried him­self. He had so much suc­cess so early, so many quick moves to so many dif­fer­ent clubs that he was a model to go off the rails. He could have been our Balo­telli. He’s not, he’s our Gerd Muller.

This week’s game with Oman is a great chance for people to turn up in their thou­sands to thank him for everything he has done. Dead­line day work means Niall Quinn can­not thank him for those four extra years on the night, but for the record, cheers old bean.

Some jour­ney. Fet­ter­cairn to LA and so many stops in between. I hope he enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed watch­ing him.