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Why does the January transfer window bring out the worst in football fans (and the media)?

ANNOUNCE MISDIRECTED ANGER!

It’s mid-January and already the transfer window has made social media uninhabitable.

When the shop doors open at the start of the year, it invariably invites the worst out of us as football fans.

Suddenly, a tidal wave of misplaced entitlement washes over us and we gain overnight expertise in the nuances of high-level accounting.

It’s genuinely astonishing to see how many people believe they have greater knowledge of their club’s finances than the people in command of their club’s finances.


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When your club tweet about significant donation to charity instead of a new third-choice keeper

PA:Press Association
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When your club tweet about significant donation to charity instead of a new third-choice keeper

Then there’s the obsessive focus on this one aspect of the sport.

Check the replies to any non-transfer related tweet from the majority of professional football clubs and it’s a hellscape of impatient demands and nonsensical enquiries — admittedly, some are tongue-in-cheek.

There is a collective suspicion among each fan base that their club will somehow be left behind and that a failure to sign a first-team regular (at the very least!) will derail the club’s season.

Never mind, historically speaking, successful January signings are few and far between when it comes to significantly impacting the season in which they occur.

Seemingly only Liverpool, who have dropped just two points all season, are immune to the frenzied panic.

Perhaps because the champions elect are on a near-unprecedented streak of recruitment success thanks to the work of sporting director Michael Edwards, who has overseen the rsignings of Georginio Wijnaldum, Andrew Robertson, Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and more.

The transfer market whisperer

PA:Press Association
4
The transfer market whisperer

The basic reasoning for the outcry is understandable: fans are able to identify areas in which the squad needs improving.

Where it goes wrong, is the fundamental misunderstanding of how transfers actually work, how complicated they are, and the many factors that determine whether one is possible.

Many fans think it’s as simple as: we need a (insert position), let’s buy (insert well-known player in said position).

It’s also increasingly common for fans to exhibit a committed belief in the ability of a player they have never seen play, sourcing three-minute YouTube complications to present themselves as more knowledgeable than the club’s scouts.

Occasionally, things fall into place neatly, allowing for easy switches.

But often, transfers are rendered unfeasible due to unavoidable complications, even if all parties communicate effectively and reasonably.

YES! GREAT BIT OF BUSINESS! WELCOME TO THE CLUB!

Getty - Contributor
4
YES! GREAT BIT OF BUSINESS! WELCOME TO THE CLUB!

Clubs are regularly criticised for what is perceived as lethargic inaction when they are actually endeavouring to complete deals behind the scenes.

The disconnect between how much the fans know about the club’s inner workings causes friction and often leads to a toxic and fractious atmosphere online (and less commonly, in stadiums).

And this time of the year doesn’t just bring out the worst in fans.

The media capitalise on the mass hysteria by harvesting large-scale clicks with spurious rumours based on insignificant observations: player x spotted wearing shoes made from Italian leather — what number will he wear at Juventus?

And sometimes, when page views are down, transfer rumours are fabricated without any evidence at all.

Journalist and fan enter a cycle of supply and demand where neither want to read or write false transfer links but the feverish interest in the transfer window means both are locked in and doomed to repeat the disagreeable experience until February 1st grants them both respite.

He never did for Man United…

Reuters
4
He never did for Man United…

What many overlook, is the possibility a team can sustain their form, even improve, in the second half of the season without paying the inflated transfer fees now common in January.

New recruits are not guaranteed problem-solvers, far from it.

Transfers are an integral function of football and it’s normal for fans to feel excited about the prospect of talented players joining the club they support.

But the interest has mutated into paranoid fascination for many and rendered social media exhaustively tedious at times.

To misquote Green Day, wake me up when January ends.


NEXT: Neymar now knows he isn’t too cool to defend — is that enough to break PSG’s Champions League curse?

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