Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The nine-month transfer window

There used to be a time when finding out that Tottenham had signed a new player was a surprise. This was an era long before 24-hour, wall-to-wall media coverage, blink and you'll miss it updates and quotes from Harry Redknapp on just about anyone with a pair of fitba boots.
Transfers seemed to be so much less protracted in the past: one day said target was another team's player the next day he was your team's and channels for the information were confined to P302 on Ceefax or one of the red tops. It helped, of course, that there was no such thing as a transfer window and clubs could sign players practically all year round. None the less Gillie's own transfer from Dundee to Spurs was six months in the making and turned into a bit of a saga before he eventually signed on at White Hart Lane, a week before Christmas 1964. Two newspapers, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express, had the story. Another far cry from the present.
Now journalists across Britain indulge in a fastest finger in the west style gunfight to see who can be first to pull the Twigger [sic]. And that's if they get the news first. Club websites, both official and unofficial, Sky Sports News, the BBC website and fans forums all vie with each other to be the first to 'break' the news. A recent example was the Efrain Juarez transfer from UNAM Pumas to Celtic. The Mexican newspapers reported that Juarez was all set for Parkhead, the Scottish newspapers picked up the story the following day and by day three the Mexican press were quoting the Scottish press as having said the deal was almost done. It's a long way from the days when Jim Rodger of the Daily Express used to set up transfers for talented Scottish players who wanted to make a career down south and then break the story the following day. Rodger or 'Scoop' as he was better known, was effectively one of football's first agents and helped facilitate Gilzean's move to Tottenham, having been requested to watch him repeatedly by Bill Nicholson. Often times, Rodger would pick Nicholson up at Glasgow central on the overnight train from London and the pair would drive off into the morning mist in search of a potential target.
Anyway, in deference to the good old days of blissful ignorance and a time before Manchester City-induced stasis, I've included my five favourite transfers in Tottenham Hotspur's history.

Danny Thomas This transfer in June 1983 sums up how things were done back in the pre-agent football world. Thomas was one of English football's brightest young talents and, in the summer of 83, he celebrated a call up to the England national team with a £250,000 transfer from Coventry City to Tottenham. He quickly established himself as one of the best right-backs in the country and won a UEFA Cup winners' medal the following season despite missing a penalty in the shootout with Anderlecht. I loved Danny Thomas as a player. He was quick, skilful and fearsome in the tackle, and he should have had a glittering Tottenham career but for a sickening challenge by Gavin Maguire, the QPR defender. But what I loved most about this transfer is that I found out about it in the pages of Shoot! as a nine-year-old newly smitten with football and especially Spurs.

Jurgen Klinsmann Another one which reminds me of the days before the interweb. The summer of 1994 had been a fairly fraught time in Tottenham's history what with a 12-point deducion in place from the Premier League due to transfer irregularities. All talk had been about whether Spurs would stay up ahead of the forthcoming season but it dissipated just as soon as the club made the annoucement that Klinsmann had signed a two-year deal on Alan Sugar's yacht in Monaco. Again what I loved about this transfer was the alacrity with which it took place and the relative stealth with which the deal was done. My brother phoned me at work to tell me that we had signed the German striker - it was the first time I had heard his name even connected with the club.

Gary Lineker The England and Barcelona front man arrived at a time when Spurs were on the up. Terry Venables had managed to steer the club to a sixth-placed finish in the previous season (88/89) and with Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne starting to click as the campaign drew to a close, the addition of Lineker hinted at the outside chance of a title challenge. All the good work (Lineker cost just £1.5m, a steal given the goals he would score at the club) was undone, however, when Waddle was sold to Marseille for £4.5m a few weeks later. The Geordie would finish second in the European Footballer of the Year awards the following season - an award he should have won. Nevertheless, for those brief few weeks, Spurs fans had the chance to dream again.

Jermain Defoe Defoe arrived at Spurs on my 30th birthday in 2004. I thought he was our Ian Wright, a theory that was reinforced to me when the diminutive striker scored on his debut against Portsmouth. That game lives long in the memory. I was with my then girlfriend (now wife) for the game. She had tears in her eyes as the teams came out 'because of the emotion' but by the time Gus Poyet stabbed in Tottenham's winner she was fast asleep. The score? 4-3 to Tottenham. She still refers to JD as 'wee Defoe' but I'm still waiting for him to become 'our Ian Wright'.

Luka Modric I was lying in bed nursing a hangover early one Saturday morning when I received a text which simply read 'We've signed Modric'. The Croat had been linked with a string of Europe's top clubs. He had been vaguely linked with Tottenham but it was more or less recognised that his destination would be Chelsea or Barca or some other big hitter. It was almost inconceivable that he would join Spurs. The transfer revived memories of the good old days and gave me an indication of what it might have been like to be a Spurs fan when the club signed Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. I got to meet Ossie and Ricky during the writing of In Search Of Alan Gilzean. Indeed, they autographed a book for me which I had bought for Steve Perryman for an auction night to raise funds for Exeter City's youth development. Steve being Steve thanked me but told me to keep the book which he signed, too. I intend running a competition on the blog in the near future with the book as a prize. I will, though, insist that you buy a copy of ISOAG in order to enter.

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