Danny Hall Column: Why Sky Sports’ Transfer Window coverage should be smashed. These deadline day histrionics are becoming too much

Jim White's deadline day histrionics have seen him become a celebrity
Jim White's deadline day histrionics have seen him become a celebrity
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The clock is ticking towards 11pm and Jim White’s throaty Scottish tones are beginning to grate ever so slightly, when yet another ‘Breeeaking Neeews’ intonation makes you sit bolt upright in your armchair.

It’s happening. Finally. After hours of firing jealous glances towards other clubs, and feeling like the bloke in the corner of the nightclub as all the single ladies are carted off while you’re left sipping your warm WKD, you’re in business.

World of Sport

World of Sport

Or rather, your club are. That new striker from Romania’s Liga III is on his way and you couldn’t be happier.

He’s good, this lad. I’ve read all about him on the internet. His clips are amazing. And have you seen his stats on Fifa?

Champions League, here we come.

Then, when the surprise wears off, the reality dawns; no-one has the slightest clue who this kid is or, more importantly, what he can do. Welcome to the cult of the transfer deadline day in 2015, Sky Sports-style. You suckers.

Owls Deadine Day signings in training today...Pictured is Marnick Vermijl

Owls Deadine Day signings in training today...Pictured is Marnick Vermijl

Some will convince themselves that their new buy will transform their side’s fortunes on the evidence of a few grainy YouTube clips and a glowing “reference” (Ali Dia, anyone?).

A sane few will exercise a note of caution, reserving judgement on a player until they have seen him in the flesh and given him a fair chance. This faction, however, is growing rarer by the year (or half-year, as Sky Sports prefer) and being replaced by a generation of armchair bosses who judge a newcomer by his potential on Football Manager, or by his sprint speed and aggression rating in Fifa 15.

This is actually fast becoming a thing.

The dear old Beeb website tried to enter the brave new world by carrrying a piece on deadline day, with ‘Fifa Interactive World Cup 2014 Grand Final competitor’ David Bytheway and Football Manager ‘expert’ (no, me neither) Alex Stewart on Marseille defender Doria, who was linked with a loan move to West Ham. Now Olympique de Marseille is hardly a European backwater club and opinions on Doria shouldn’t have been too hard to find. The actual Doria, not the virtual one.

But instead we had our panel of experts describing him as “one of last season’s outstanding defenders on Football Manager, the Álvarez Balanta of 2013-14”. Presumably, that’s a good thing.

But don’t get too carried away. There is a warning that clubs are often virtually warned off Doria because of a “supposedly selfish attitude and a lack of ambition”.

Yes, in a computer game.

The image of Sam Allardyce pulling a Football Manager all-nighter and stumbling across a Brazilian defensive wonderkid in his underpants is as disturbing as it is ridiculous. But this is the age we live in, folks. Big-game previews on a national newspaper’s website often consist of the game being simulated on Fifa 15 and recently, the same people simulated North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un in Football Manager 2015 - as a Manchester United player - and documented his progress right through to lifting the FA Cup in May.

The above, you may argue, is all in jest. But to this columnist, it highlights a peculiar shift in the mindset of football fans in the Sky-dominated era.

Sheffield Wednesday, for example, signed Marnick Vermijl, Sergiu Bus, Filipe Joaquim Melo Silva and Lewis McGugan in January; a very productive transfer window for the Hillsborough club, who were also taken over by a Thai consortium of investors.

The window had barely slammed shut and the frame was still rocking when an Owls fan posted a tweet online, containing his “Wednesday best eleven” at this moment in time. And, sure enough, all four new-boys were included.

One can perhaps understand the choice of McGugan, who seemed to catch the eye on a previous loan spell at Wednesday. But Melo, presumably on the strength of a clip on YouTube, is preferred in midfield to Jose Semedo, the veteran of five seasons and 117 appearances for the Owls. Bus fights it out with Atdhe Nuhiu (seven goals this term in the Championship) upfront while Vermijl, whose only appearance this season came for Manchester United in a 4-0 Capital One Cup hammering at MK Dons, is seemingly preferred to both Liam Palmer and Lewis Buxton.

Sure, players from Manchester United must have something in their locker and Bus, scorer of ten goals in as many games for CSKA Sofia, is certainly an exciting prospect.

But at the moment, they are just that; they have certainly done little to justify inclusion in a ‘best current eleven’ picked by someone who has never seen them play.

But this is what Sky’s deadline day delight does to us. It turns the likes of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville into puppets who look like they’ve joined the Liberal Democrats, bedecked in their odious yellow ties and pocket squares in an ode to ‘Sir’ Jim White, wheeled out on deadline day like some kind of pontificating Santa Claus.

It forces managers to press the panic button as the clock gears towards deadline, with reporters forced outside training grounds to compete with fans armed with purple sex aids, fireworks and anti-Sky banners.

(Until, of course, Sky decided to ban fans from appearing on screen on Deadline Day, in a move which practically summed them up).

And, worst of all, it forces us ordinary fans into mindless hyping of deadline-day buys, merely because our clubs beat the deadline and somehow made us feel like we beat the system.

Just like Coca-Cola hijacked Christmas and made Santa’s suit red, Sky are ensuring the essential non-entity of Deadline Day intrudes more and more on our everyday lives. One website even called for it to become a public holiday last week. Enough is enough, Sky Sports - it’s time to smash the window histrionics once and for all.