January Transfer Window (Cardiff City – NFFC Programme Notes)

With the opening of the January transfer window imminent and the rumour mill already in full function, I can’t help but think how different our season might have been if all clubs were free to trade throughout the season, as was previously the case.

The motives behind the restrictive transfer window system are sound enough; FIFA wanted clubs to adopt a more calculated approach to buying and selling players, encouraging the development of young home grown talent and discouraging reckless short-term expenditure.

Unfortunately its implementation has not had the desired effect within the English League. We currently have fewer young British players emerging onto the scene than ever before and, furthermore, clubs’ approaches to transfers are no more calculated than they used to be, just more congested within a smaller time frame.

When Steve Cotterill was appointed as our manager in October 2011 he would have wanted to restructure the squad to suit his managerial ideology. There are probably a couple of players who he deemed surplus to requirements and I’m certain there are quite a few players who he’d be keen to bring in. Unfortunately he can’t even begin this process of restructuring until January 2012 (three months into his managerial tenure and halfway through the season.)

Unwanted players are left in a proverbial no-man’s land; starved of first team football and unable to move to greener pastures. The manager is unable to fulfil an integral part of his core purpose, i.e. shaping his squad in the way he sees fit. And us fans are driven mad by the vast amount of rumours that circulate the internet while we wait for January to arrive.

Frank Clark has made it clear that the club will adopt a frugal transfer policy going forward, with Forest looking to conform to the forthcoming Financial Fair Play regulations, also imposed by FIFA. However I believe that the transfer window system will make it difficult for the club to take the necessary steps to balance their books and adapt to the changing football landscape.

Once the window is open, Frank Clark and Steve Cotterill will have a month to make the necessary adjustments to the squad. Both may have a very clear vision of what they want to achieve, but there will be a number of obstacles facing them.

There may be a lack of interest in the Forest players that are made available, and even if clubs are interested they may have to wait for other deals to be tied up before they can act. Equally, Forest may have to wait to sell players before they can buy; they may be reliant upon a number of other deals going through before they are able to become active in the transfer market.

The time frame that teams have to operate in is too short and, unless willing to severely compromise on the value of the transfer fee in question, the stalemate often remains past the closing of the window.

Often very few transfers will take place amongst Championship clubs during the January transfer window, because if one deal falls through then a whole host of other deals will inevitably be scuppered. This leaves Steve Cotterill much like a man in a straitjacket trying to shuffle a pack of playing cards.

Of course there is an exciting side to the January Transfer Window. Sky Sports News is bursting at the seams with juicy transfer gossip, dramatic contract twists and shocking last minute deals. I’ve always thought that if I was an international footballer I’d spend transfer deadline day driving to and from all the Premiership grounds … just to send journalists into a confused frenzy.

The problem is that the majority of business is done by ‘big clubs’ with ridiculous amounts of money to spend. Take last year as an example … Chelsea felt they needed more firepower and spent £50million on Fernando Torres … Liverpool needed to fill the gap left by Torres and signed Andy Carroll for £35million. A year later and both players have proven to be massive flops. If anything the window encourages owners to panic buy and take huge risks … something that clubs like Forest simply can’t afford to do.

Under the old free flowing transfer system Forest would have been able to buy and sell players as the need arose. The ‘imbalance’ within the squad, which Steve Cotterill has openly spoken about, would have already begun to be addressed.

Of course I understand that the old system had flaws of its own and I know the argument is not as simplistic as I have portrayed. What concerns me is that under the current transfer system our club may find itself strangled by circumstance and unable to move forward. We may have a frustrating month ahead.

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