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The amazing life before transfer windows – Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle United

4 weeks ago

How did we all survive without transfer windows?

Can you remember how managed to cope without a Sky Sports deadline day special and countdown clock?

Yes kids, astonishing as it may seem, transfer windows are a modern invention.

I find it quite amazing that we are now just two decades into this transfer windows era, first introduced for the 2002/02 season (official info below).

Back in the ‘old’ days, the only time you couldn’t sign players was in the final few weeks of the season, basically once you got into April.

So effectively, apart from in April, you could have seen Newcastle United buy a player and very often we did.

It is quite laughable the circus that has built up now, in terms of the media coverage of transfer ‘exclusives’…maybe in this Sky Sports / Premier League era, if things hadn’t changed, then we would have been subjected to the nonsense for eleven months. As feasibly, your club might buy somebody in October, or December, or March…

What if rigid transfer windows had existed back in the day, how different things may have turned out for Newcastle United and others.

Even in the decade before transfer windows were introduced, there are numerous examples.

Newcastle United heading for the third tier, Kevin Keegan dramatically arrives at St James’ Park in February 1992, that same month signing Brian Kilcline and Kevin Sheedy, then in March 1992 brought in Peter Garland and Darren McDonough, all four players, to varying degrees, playing their part in the eventually successful survival battle.

Then in March 1993, Kevin Keegan brought in the trio of Scott Sellars, Mark Robinson and Andy Cole, to help ensure promotion happened and maybe more importantly, bedded them in before the club’s arrival in the Premier League, NUFC sensationally going on to finish third and both Cole and Sellars playing starring roles.

A year later, KK repeated his trick of bringing players in late in the previous season to prepare for the next, Ruel Fox signed in February 1993 and Darren Peacock in March 1994.

The so nearly season of 1995/96 saw Tino signed in February 1996 and David Batty in March 1996.

When Kenny Dalglish came in, players such as Gary Speed arrived in February 1998 and Nikos Dabizas signed in March 1998.

The Sir Bobby Robson reign saw signings made in random months, Kevin Gallacher in October 1999, Clarence Acuna in October 2000, Andy O’Brien in March 2001, then Sylvain Distain in September 2001.

During that SBR era of course, we saw the system of transfer windows come in and football changed, especially in the Premier League and of course, how it was reported.

Your memory does play tricks but I’m sure that back in the day, speculation and media stories of possible transfers was not a fraction of what it is now. Cramming everything into a few months in the summer and then each January, has made it a very different animal. There is always a countdown to something, whether it is a window opening or set to close. Plus of course the emergence of social media hasn’t exactly helped! An ITK (In The Know) back in the day, was the annoying bloke in the local pub who claimed to know such and such’s milkman who delivered to somebody who know somebody who knew somebody who worked at NUFC. Now the ITKs are anonymous bizarre people on Twitter who repeat everything the general media are saying but claim it is from their ‘sources’, yet bizarrely countless signings and other stuff happen that, they never saw coming.

Official Premier League explanation about life before transfer windows and why they were introduced – 30 May 2017:

When did the present transfer window system begin?

The present system was introduced for the 2002/03 season.

Why was it introduced?

Windows were introduced as part of a compromise agreement with the European Commission about how the whole transfer system worked and how it could best preserve contractual stability for both the player and the club while allowing movement at prescribed times during the year – the summer and winter transfer windows in effect.

The alternative was to bring football in line with most other industries where contracts were not enforceable or liable for appropriate compensation, i.e. notice periods being served and players moving at will. The football authorities across Europe felt this would fatally undermine the footballing economy and remove the incentive for clubs to invest in developing players.

What was life like for Premier League clubs before the transfer window?

Players could be traded throughout the season up until 31 March. Beyond that it was felt that allowing transfers could undermine the integrity of competitions.

For example, a team going for the title might suddenly acquire players from a club with nothing to play for at the end of the season on short-term contracts, not something that was really in the spirit of a season-long league competition. But the rest of the season you could lose, or gain, a player at any point.


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