Detecting hope and fear on Deadline Day

The transfer window reminds us of the ultimate futility of many of our hopes and dreams, writes Larry Ryan. 
Detecting hope and fear on Deadline Day

With Deadline Day drawing to a close on Thursday night, the great festival got the ceremonial ending it deserved. As the Sky Sports News man at Chelsea’s training ground brought us the latest chapters in the Drinkwater and Barclay sagas, the screen flickered black, a bunch of mystery assailants roared “faaaack off”, and we returned to Hayley McQueen in studio, who offered profuse apologies if we’d detected any bad language.

It was a brief return to the headiest glory days of the grand old August carnival. A time of infinite possibility when Sky’s intrepid correspondents ran a gauntlet of exuberance in front of the training grounds of England’s top clubs — at the mercy of hope and fear and the odd burning of an effigy.

Eventually, our heroes were ushered in behind closed doors for their own safety, away from the luminous dildos being poked into their ears, as this traditional gala ate itself, falling victim to ennui, attention-seeking and the scourge of bantz.

But this year saw Deadline Day find itself again, as wild spending infused football with a giddy sense that anything was truly possible. A feeling made flesh with word that Renato Sanches would join Swansea from Bayern Munich.

Just like many of the top, top clubs, Sky themselves needed a ‘big big window’, a string of lacklustre Deadline Days threatening to wipe the lustre off this harvest celebration. Not to mind the reality that the juiciest rumours have long been hitting the internet first, a reminder that it is the internet, with its keys to every paywall, that threatens to bring Sky’s whole operation down.

Amid tumbling ratings, Renato’s arrival in Wales might also be the perfect symbol of how quickly it can all go wrong.

So Sky left nothing to chance. For now, they counter Twitter by reading out Twitter. And working hard on their set pieces. They rolled Harry Redknapp out early doors with his car window down. Harry wearily went along with the pantomime, even if he fluffed a few lines and his heart no longer seems to be in it. “We’re building a team the people of Bournemouth, sorry Birmingham, can be proud of.”

As tradition demands, Harry told them his business was done and they chuckled later over the old chancer’s swoop for Jota.

To get us truly in the spirit of the festival, Sky invited us to tweet our “biggest hopes and fears” with the #deadlineday hashtag, not reading out anything that mentioned a nuclear winter.

There can be no better measure of the power of hope and the depth of fear than the ability to crash an international flight tracking app. And that is what Liverpool fans managed as they followed the progress of a private jet from Bournemouth to Merseyside, on the basis that Virgil van Dijk might be on board.

He wasn’t, and some might see the forensic investigation conducted across the internet into which cars Liverpool typically dispatch to meet private jets as time wasted.

But of course it wasn’t wasted at all, simply an opportunity for the Reds faithful to get in touch with how much better their lives could be with a centre-half to rely on. And a visceral reminder of their great fear of corner kicks.

When naysayers bemoan that we have lost the true spirit of Deadline Day, it is that kind of intrepid detective work they pine for, rather than big deals.

Sky have been at the vanguard of much of that work, such as when they trained a camera through Manchester United’s windows in 2008 and found Fergie walking down the corridor with Dimitar Berbatov, having spirited him away from Tottenham.

Or when they tracked Peter Odemwingie’s trip to London in 2013 and showed us the cocktail of hope and fear in a man’s eyes when the prospect of €100,000 per week is on the line.

There were echoes of the Odemwingie odyssey this week in the tragedy of Riyad Mahrez, seemingly sighted looking morose in various European capitals as he plotted an exit from Leicester.

And the happier ending for Danny Drinkwater, who had been parked forlornly near Cobham, waiting for the nod to go inside for his medical, the one Englishman that will countenance Chelsea now that JT, the most English man of them all, is gone.

The transfer window also reminds us of the ultimate futility of many of our hopes and dreams. Perhaps never more so than in the grim determination of Leicester’s heroes to move on, so soon after achieving theirs. But the smell of futility was strongest at the Arsenal, who provided the central narratives of this Deadline Day.

Around this time, four years ago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain staged a free-kick clinic for BT Sport, in which his chief focus was the run-up.

It’s important to get the optics of the run-up right, the Ox stressed, because “that’s your identity”, noting he preferred to “freestyle”. It was the day some people’s hopes for the Ox dissolved into fears. But four years, and not many free kicks, later, the Ox may have finally elected to give up freestyling in search of his identity and seek a little more instruction and focus.

That his was the top Deadline Day deal says much about the fearlessness of Jurgen Klopp and the durability of hope.

That the Ox was allowed to freestyle right up until last Sunday’s embarrassment at Anfield suggests Arsenal now inhabit that mythical place Arsene Wenger once coined in a fit of annoyance; Farciland.

The sheer farce of Arsenal’s Deadline Day dealings was a construction much bigger than any one man could piece together, suggesting an entire club that has misplaced any understanding of hope and fear.

But it that one man who will take the flak. And like the Sky boys, he may soon have to be ushered away from the madding crowd for his own safety.

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