John Still and the January transfer window. One makes me smile with boyish glee, the other makes me consider hijacking the van that delivers fake tan to the Sky Sports News studio and switching the bottles of St Tropez with a totally non-lethal coconut scented tear gas. Such a confusing time, January.
Given that our 1st team only managed to get a couple of Saturday league games in during that longest of months, it could have felt like the momentum had been lost a bit couldn’t it?
Add to that the fixture-list-clogging FA Trophy, which has always tested my patience with non-league football to its limit, plonking two games against title rivals Cambridge United into the middle-bit of the month that contained all the drier days with playable pitches and we should be due a good old whinge shouldn’t we? Squad stretched. Fixture list contriving against us. Weather being all wintry an’ that. IT’S JUST NOT FAIR. In previous years that may have been the case...
And you, evil January transfer window, with your rolling 24 hour TV coverage yelping at me from a channel that I don’t even subscribe to and somehow convincing someone at the BBC (which I am legally obliged to subscribe to, and which I love) that we need DEADLINE DAY coverage of car park after rainy car park, delivering graphic after shouty graphic for Martin Keown to pour over in that expert way that only desperate men in Burton’s shirt-sleeves can.
The game we love so dearly, reduced for a whole month to gossip and PR spin about the inflated value of a superstar player and lining the pockets of agents and advertisers while most of the game wallows in debt and decline.
“Reckon he’ll sign anyone in the window, Boy?” the weary Arsenal supporting father asks his son, who’s glazed eyes look lost without a breaking news ticker for stimulation. “I’m really hoping we can reposition The Brand for an as yet uninterested far eastern market with a new marquee signing, Dad. That would be wicked!”
January. It’s not really aimed at me.
But now, as with so many things this season that in different hands could have been a bit jarring to my very particular Lutonian sensibilities (catchphrases like “controlling the controllables”, the Team Huddle and the West Ham mug) with John Still in charge of it, the January window was somehow rendered utterly wonderful:
“We’ll never get Pelly back on loan” we said. “He’ll be out to a Championship club now” - Pelly signs on a permanent deal from West Ham.
“Gray’ll be off, mate. Loads of League clubs’ll be in for him. Never mind, eh. We nearly got there.” - Gray stays.
“Meade made his first start for Arsenal in the Champions League...” - He made his first what for who in the WHAT, mate?!
The confines of this page aren’t sufficient to list all the positive changes that John Still and his team, with the backing of the Board, have brought to the club this season. The good feeling towards him is universal in the town, and seems to stretch beyond its borders throughout the training grounds of the Skrill and as far as those ‘big’ clubs we used to beat in the garish spotlight and whitened teeth of Sky Sports.
But if John Still can make me love January, then there’s nothing the man can’t do.