Transfer deadline day. I don’t like it. Any principles, any morals, they all go out of the window. Afterwards I used to get home and think, “I need a shower” – because generally you are dealing with a lot of unscrupulous people. I’d wake up, the phone would start going mad, and I’d know that I was in for a rotten day and that a lot of people were going to earn money they didn’t deserve.
In an ideal world, you would have your business done early, but football management isn’t an ideal world. Your own chief executive won’t buy the players you want immediately. Instead they’ll say they are trying to negotiate, when half the time they’re simply stalling so as not to pay the big wages until September instead of June and save themselves a million quid. So many games are played.
I once arranged for a player to come along to a club I was managing and he turned up with three agents, all claiming to own a part of him. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “You’ve got 20 minutes to figure out exactly who we negotiate with and pay.” But after 20 minutes they were all still there, and all still claiming to be the agent, so I said, “Right, all four of you buzz off, goodbye”. It’s an incredible situation.
There you are, it’s the last day of the window, you’re anxious, the agent knows that and he’s trying to get as much money out of the club for his client as is humanly possible. Having almost bankrupted you, the agent then turns around and says, “Now, what about my fee?”
“For what?” “For putting the deal together.” “You never put the deal together, you’ve just driven the player here and now you want £200,000.” That’s the most expensive taxi fare I’ve ever seen!
Managers panic on deadline day, though, and that’s why so many bad deals will be done. I’ve never got a bargain on deadline day. Arsène Wenger splashed a load of cash at the last minute in 2011 and ended up with Andre Santos. Now Wenger is a very clever man, but you could tell he’d panicked with that one and ended up with someone who was no better than the three full- backs he already had, but was now probably on more money than any of them.
By deadline day your players can be jittery, too. The ones who want away have spent the summer sulking with their phones glued to their ears. As the clock ticks, those players can cause problems and will try tricks to cover their tracks.
I had a player at Coventry who had had a day off, and one morning I asked him what he’d got up to. “I had a day out with the family, boss,” he said. “Oh, that’s very nice,” I said. “The thing is, we know you were at the home of a chairman of [another club], because he had painters and decorators in and they were all Coventry fans and they phoned us.” Liar!
But that’s the transfer window and that’s deadline day. It can bring out the naughty side of people. I don’t drink but, as a manager, that might be the day to drink yourself into oblivion, pass out and miss the whole thing. When it all ends, you feel great– and then a month later you realise you bought some real rubbish and you’re sacked.
Thanks very much.
As told to Leo Moynihan (originally published September 2013)