Sheffield United: The other side of transfer deadline day revealed

Later this afternoon, as 5pm approaches, football will descend into a state of mass hysteria.

Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 7:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th August 2019, 9:15 am
Daniel Lafferty left Sheffield United earlier this year: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Highly strung presenters. Managers hanging out of car windows and giving impromptu interviews after being accosted by reporters. All the classic symptoms of deadline day delirium.

But behind the extravagant studio sets and scrolling news tickers pumping out announcements about the latest multi-million pound deal, others within the game occupy a parallel universe. One where anxiety, not excitement, is the order of the day.

Daniel Lafferty, the former Sheffield United defender, is among a small army of players still out of contract after being released by their clubs at the end of last term. Despite accepting an invitation to train with Bolton Wanderers, the League One side's financial problems mean he remains a free agent.

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"I'm not going to lie," he says. "It's not a great situation to be in. To begin with, you think everything will work out quickly and you'll get something sorted. Then, the longer it goes on, the doubt starts to creep in. It's hard on you as an individual because you're always getting asked the same questions by friends and family: 'What's going on? Have you got hooked-up yet?' But it's also tough on those around you."

Lafferty is shining a light into an area of the transfer window which seldom gets illuminated by the media spotlight. Although he remains hopeful of agreeing something with Wanderers - "Fingers crossed, when the situation's sorted, we can get a deal done" - he is essentially out of work and searching for employment. Working with Wanderers has helped maintain his physical fitness. But, Lafferty explains, there is also a psychological battle to be fought.

"Obviously, it goes without saying, you've got to try and stay upbeat and positive about things," he continues. "And that's what I'm doing, although I wouldn't be being truthful if I said I didn't get frustrated at times.

"Football has got this really glamorous image and yes, it's a great game to be involved in. But it's not all like that, not everything is how it might appear at times. There's another side to it as well."

Lafferty joined United from Burnley three years ago, following Chris Wilder's appointment as manager. A near permanent fixture in the team which delivered the League One title, he made nine appearances in the Championship over the course of the next two seasons, only parting company with the club earlier this summer after it reached the Premier League.

Capped 13 times by Northern Ireland, Lafferty's CV should guarantee him an opportunity elsewhere if an arrangement with Wanderers does not materialise. But, for the time being at least, he finds himself playing a waiting game. Football Ventures, a consortium headed by Sharon Brittan, are attempting to buy the stricken club from Ken Anderson. But it is unlikely manager Phil Parkinson, whose goalkeeping coach Lee Butler is friends with Wilder, will be allowed to register any new players until they make significant progress in their takeover bid. Like Lafferty, Jack Hobbs and Ben Pringle are also in limbo after being made provisional offers by Wanderers.

"The eyes of football have been on United recently," Lafferty said. "Because of what the boys have done and the style they've done it in. I've had offers but, for different reasons, I had to turn them down. Then, as time goes on, maybe you have to start reconsidering and compromising a bit more."

"I've gone to Bolton because, whatever else is happening there at the moment, they're still a really good club and the coaching staff have been up front with me about the situation," he added. "If the money situation gets sorted, you've got to think they're going to be on the up and they'll be able to drag some good people in because of the name and the stadium."