I usually enjoy the last day of the transfer window (the exception to the rule of course being selling Scotty Parker and failing to land a replacement, even though we knew he was on his way), listening to the latest porkies from the unlovable ‘Arry, trying to second-guess the last-second desperate move by Arsenal etc. It seems to have a lot in common with the banks’ post-results conferences. Ignore what’s said, focus on what isn’t, the body language and the lies. I’ve never been fond (in an investment sense) of Deutsche Bank, not because of their indecipherable structure (perhaps my favourite moment in these gatherings was when that bank’s management tried to explain a slide outlining a plan to simplify the group structure; it prompted laughter all round as the ‘explanation’ was itself unfathomable) and dodgy balance sheet but because they are so bad when it comes to conning the audience. Perhaps some things get lost in translation, German to English, cockney to English etc.
But I can’t abide this stage of the window. Insider information may be frowned upon in certain areas, but it’s always at least useful and I’m so far removed from it when it comes to our impending ins and outs that all I can do is keep my counsel (no doubt a relief for some), watch what others are saying, and wait for concrete developments. As nobody’s gone or arrived as yet, the dangers of us being embroiled in some late dramas seems to be increasing by the day. Three wins in a row (the last rounded off by that absolutely splendid Kermorgant header) and, while certain additions would be most welcome, the last thing we want is disruption.
In that context, I hope that all concerned display the sort of attitude shown by Stephens. When his August move to Villa didn’t materialise, he really did seem to just dust himself down and get on with things. We’ve seen the rumours of players being offered as makeweights in possible deals. I’d imagine it takes a similar kind of character if you are considered dispensable and end up staying; but such decisions are seldom definitive and if they stay I hope they too are ready and willing to go out and prove to the manager that they are worthy of fresh opportunities.
After all, most careers have peaks and troughs (usually the former when they join us and the latter when they leave). Darren Bent we all of course wish the best for, but the whistle’s just gone in the League Cup semi-final and he’ll be back to convincing a seemingly sceptical manager that he’s worth a place in any Premiership team (he is) while Phil Parkinson is doing the triumphant interviews and looking forward to Wembley. It may not have worked out for him at Charlton, but it was a tough ask at the time and who knows how far he can go now (perhaps an eight-year contract to manage Newcastle?).
While we’re on the subject of former managers, can BBC Radio Five Live, all who comment on it, and all who phone into it please stop repeating the mistake that Curbs was sacked and that Charlton provide the template for wanting the next ‘step up’ and coming a cropper. Mick McCarthy, who normally talks sense, trotted out the line a couple of months back and it’s resurfaced with the ludicrous change at Southampton. Sure we had a few moaners at the time, but they were a minority, we know that Curbs wasn’t sacked (we know about the remaining time on the contract and his desire not to extend it, plus the unsettling effect of being shortlisted for the England job), and we knew what our next step up was: stay in the Premiership and continue expanding The Valley. Any team with a capacity of below 30,000 and without rich owners is only one bad season away from disaster. If there’s another daft comment made either the radio goes out the window or I march on the BBC to demand recompense (if their offices are still in London and it’s not snowing).
On the subject of snowing, I’ve just seen the appeal for help at the ground. As I’ve bought a ticket for my French partner Suzanne (who weather permitting arrives for the weekend) and as she wants to see another Kermorgant header flying into the net, it’s going to be a case for me of an early check on the work emails and assessment of a lingering cold before (hopefully) setting off.
On the subject of things French (sometimes the links are just seemless), while our fortunes have taken a turn for the better, Lyon Duchere’s promotion drive has, it has to be said, stuttered in 2013. They suffered a 0-1 reverse away at Strasbourg and followed that up with a 1-2 defeat away at Mulhouse. Two top-of-the-table clashes and no points to show has seen Duchere overtaken at the top by said Mulhouse (apparently a town tucked in close to the Swiss and German borders, ie Wenger territory), who are two points clear and have a game in hand (which can amount to four points in this league), with Strasbourg now only one point behind in third. Ah well, plenty of time to go yet – and after a long wait I will be able to attend a game coming up in February, at home to Grenoble. I hope all the snow, everywhere, will have gone by then.