James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Nigel Adkins and a footballing farce

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Managers hate them, agents love them and clubs, well, that depends on the transaction concerned.

But the fact that the biggest stories of this summer’s transfer window are two deals that didn’t happen proves, beyond all reasonable doubt, that in its present form the system has become absurd. Just like the situation Sheffield United found themselves in 72 hours ago when, thanks to somebody’s inspired decision to schedule Johnstone Paint Trophy ties on deadline day, manager Nigel Adkins missed the first 20 minutes of their victory at Hartlepool.

Now, arguments about abolishing the system are becoming as tiresome as the mania which grips certain sections of my profession whenever the cut-off point looms. They are futile too because, despite a previous experiment in Italy, which saw all moves registered and brokered at the same Milan hotel, those calling for it to be terminated aren’t in possession of the facts. Windows were established following a compromise agreement with the European Commission following concerns that football was contravening labour law. And, to be honest, I think bureaucrats in Brussels have got more pressing concerns than the happiness of Saido Berahino and David De Gea right now.

So like it or not windows are here to stay. But, as the extension granted to British teams this week proved, they can be tweaked. Surely a consensus could be reached whereby the window closes, on these shores at least, when the respective domestic seasons start? Actually, probably not given that football clubs are governed, with the tacit approval of those very same fans calling for change, by self-interest. Meaning they’ll turn a blind eye if their own side pulls a fast one to gain an advantage.

Closing the window after the first matches have been contested is unfair on season ticket holders who must fork-out for a pass before they know the composition of the squad they will spend the next nine months watching. It is unfair, as Adkins can testify, unfair on coaching staff too. Exactly like undisclosed fees because, to use a terrible Blairite term, supporters are stakeholders. It is the admission fees and satellite subscriptions they pay which provide clubs, particularly Premier League and Championship ones, with the funds to recruit. So it is only polite to let them know how that has been spent.