Deadline day came and went and Norwich did little business, managing to avoid the melee entirely, and probably deliberately. Stephen Curnow got a bit bored with it all, so wrote a piece on how modern transfers are now unveiled.
So another transfer deadline-day has mercifully passed. Although it didn’t feature an all-time classic such as an Odemwingie marooned in a car park or a Benjani asleep at an airport, most of the usual suspects put in an appearance. Jim and Natalie in their yellow garb were able to report on the usual mixture of the lavish, the peculiar and the probably made-up.
Norwich City’s own deadline-day bore many of its familiar hallmarks. From the initial panic (that we seemed to be selling Oliveira) to the optimistic (that we might be signing some tasty French striker) but ultimately ending in the safe contentment we signed to reasonably good centre halves. Indeed, our signing of Grant Hanley also represented something of a commendable change of direction for the Farke regime, as with it came an implicit realisation that our Berlin wall might need some reinforcement from some more local steel.
However, the most newsworthy aspect of Hanley’s arrival was seemingly a different factor altogether; the rather Peter Kay-ness of his video “unveiling” in which he proved more adept at flying a drone than he did doing a few keepy-uppies. Better players, or at least more expensive ones, than Hanley have fallen foul of the same induction ritual. Ousmane Dembele will no doubt prove his value in due course, but he also recently demonstrated to Barcelona that even £139,000,000 doesn’t necessarily buy you a player who can trap a bag of cement on demand.
The video unveiling has become increasingly commonplace in modern-day football, to the point where we would smell an Ali Dia-sized rat if we didn’t get one. The manic clamour to be seen to be doing something useful on deadline-day provides the motive and the advent of the official YouTube channel provides the means. Prior to the dawn of deadline day, transfers were usually drip-fed over the course of several days, to the point where they were largely accepted as being concluded once a solitary photo was given to the local rag. The photo would usually show either the player excitedly holding up his new team’s shirt (coloured ball for a goalkeeper) or poised pen-in-hand over a desk with a the manager looming over him, which to me always had a slightly sinister ring of some kind of peculiar coerced wedding in the deep south.
Like most bad things in football such as diving and short corners, it’s probably safe to blame Johnny Foreigner for all this. If we want a particular scapegoat, we usually do at Norwich, let’s go for Florentino Perez, whose pompous grandiosity led him to invite most of Madrid every time he spunked a load of money on a Galactico during his extravagant reign at Real Madrid. In 2009, shortly before Perez’s house of cards came crashing down amid allegations of financial impropriety, he took showing off to a whole new stratospheric level by enticing 80,000 fans in to the Bernabeu for a first glimpse of the fatted calf that is Cristiano Ronaldo, comfortably a bigger crowd than ever saw him actually play football at Old Trafford.
The unveiling of a new signing is one of the few remaining arenas in which Norwich City still have a pretty impressive track record themselves. I am of course referring to Boxing Day 2003. Darren Huckerby had returned to Manchester City following a loan spell which had bordered on the super-human. His agent had then set about negotiating a move back to the dark ages at West Brom, which clearly was never going to work. As most of us were politely excusing ourselves from Boxing Day at an uncle so-and-so’s, Huckerby was completing his medical. By the time that the Sky cameras were rolling and everyone had a festive beer inside them, Hucks was ready for as gladiatorial an entrance as you can possibly make from the backdrop of the City stand. He was flanked by Delia and Michael, who were apparently going for a look somewhere between proud parents at a swimming gala and a couple of smug lottery winners turning up to resign from their old place of work. In his excellent autobiography, Iwan Roberts attests to how much of a genuine surprise this whole performance was, even to the existing playing staff. The sort of drama that Jim and Natalie spend hours promising but could never deliver in their wildest “slamming shut” dreams.
So what can we conclude about the video unveiling of a footballer? It helps if you can juggle a football. It helps if you are just a really really good player. But whilst they might momentarily symbolise the excitement and hope that comes with having a new player in your team, they are soon disposed of and forgotten, long before Jim White’s yellow tie is at the cleaners. Transfers are memorable because of what comes after them, not before. Let’s hope Grant Hanley’s defining moments are still to come.
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