In this week’s column, Chelsea legend Pat Nevin looks at this important date in the football calendar from the perspective of a supporter but he also gives a first-hand account of what it is like from a player’s point of view…
It is a strange old day, this transfer deadline day. For most football fans it is pretty exciting. Obviously you can’t be sure of anything as the deals are rushed through at the last moment, but everyone hopes their club will get that last piece of the jigsaw that will change everything.
The cries of ‘we need a scorer’, ‘a creator,’ ‘somebody to stiffen up the back line’ or ‘a keeper who hasn’t got floppy hands,’ are the usual pleas, but those can all be from different fans at one club at the same time
So not only is it unclear who you need, but sometimes also what you need as the final piece of the jigsaw. For Chelsea fans it is an exciting day in a positive way, with us not regularly worrying about losing our best players, just looking forward to getting in more good ones. For other fans it is different, they sit there praying by their bedsides as the clock creeps towards closure in the hope that their favourites aren’t lured away.
Those fans aren’t however the only ones who are worrying about what happens next. It is an edgy time for many footballers too. Deadline day is a day you can leave the house in the morning, breezily say goodbye to your loved ones the same way you habitually do, and by late that afternoon your entire world could be changed if you are suddenly thrown onto the transfer merry-go-round. It might be that a bigger team suddenly wants to buy you, your own club decides it needs to get rid of you or there is the ignominy of being the makeweight in someone else’s deal.
The family factor
Now before you get the violins out, a move almost always means an increase in wages so there is that, but trying to make those enormous decisions on the hoof is not always easy. Sometimes there is more than one possible option, as our own Mykhailo Mudryk discovered recently. Happily, he clearly chose the right option, but if you are coming from a different country that is not always easy to see.
You also have to make the decision based on how it affects your loved ones. This is often ignored among the headlines about transfer fees, but I certainly knew that it was right up there with the most important points to consider any time I moved in my career.
If it sounds far-fetched that it can go that fast, then I have to tell you that it is absolutely true. I can recall one day in the second half of my career when I was out training in a foreign land one morning and the club secretary called me away from a five-a-side game, which I was pretty miffed about anyway as I was enjoying it.
Five hours later, I was back in Britain sitting in a manager’s office at a club I had not considered once in my life up until then, but now was ready to sign a three-year contract with them. It was bizarre and astonishingly quick.
Explaining to my wife that she and the kids were going to have to up sticks would normally have been the hardest thing to do, but I was lucky that time. It was a Scottish club, Kilmarnock, and we were going home.
Not everyone gets so lucky, and you have to factor that into any move. I am not sure how many transfers fail to go through because the partners put the foot down, but it is a lot more than fans think. This is sometimes portrayed as the wife wanting a fancy lifestyle in the city of her choice. That is brutally unfair as more often than not it is worries about uprooting kids from school, leaving their own homes with their own friends and family being left behind, sometimes an entire continent away, to have a life that is uncertain with no community they know.
As I mentioned before, the violins and maudlin pianos are usually not brought out and for good reason. The money is good and indeed sometimes fantastic in the game. The career is short and these days there is the opportunity to set yourselves up for life with that one big move. That is the dilemma and those are usually the deciding factors, but it doesn’t make leaving your old life easy.
Adventure of a lifetime
For Chelsea, there have been a few other things to take into account I guess. It is clear now that the policy is to bring in a very young and very talented set of players in the hope of building a bright new future. It is incredibly exciting for us to watch, but remember there are a lot of very young people coming here from very different backgrounds, societies and situations.
Teething problems are to be expected but the modern club has the know-how and finance to make the transition as easy as possible.
When I arrived at Chelsea all those years ago, I almost got on the next train back north to Scotland. I stayed in a grotty little flea-ridden bedsit for the first 12 months and earned just about enough to get by, until we started getting some win bonuses. So it is a bit easier now for the incoming lads in just about all respects, but it can still be a test. I had no wife and kids to worry about and more importantly I was the type who liked adventure and could easily survive on my own. Not everyone is like that.
What I can promise those young players however, from Mudryk to Madueke, Badiashile to anyone else we might get today, you are in for the adventure of a lifetime at Chelsea Football Club as this new vision quickly comes into focus. It will be a blast.
Most importantly, if you are homesick or worried then there is one thing you can always rely on. If you work hard and give it your best shot, the Chelsea fans will always be there for you. Maybe more than anything else, that is what saw me through the early days of my move to the club and that has not changed one single bit in all the years since.