The all-singing, all-dancing, yellow-tie wearing transfer window has SLAMMED SHUT, for Premier League teams at least (closing early while the rest of Europe remains open for business seems a very fitting Brexit era act of self-sabotage), so perhaps we can get back to the football?
Where once transfer windows were mildly diverting pieces of entertainment, now they have become hyperbolic monsters where reality rarely, if ever, matches expectation. Time and again, though, we get sucked in. Why has this happened? When did football become such a soap opera? Is it Sky Sports, or a saturated sports market, or social media? Or is it simply a reflection of a modern age of materialism and diminishing attention spans?
It seems perverse that we sit on the eve of a new season when memories of such a wonderful World Cup are so fresh. It was a tournament to remind us why we fell in love with football, spoilt as we were with magnificent games and goals. The beauty and excitement lay on the grass, and it was a welcome holiday from interminable club bickering and unwarranted panicking.
In contrast, the last few weeks have been a carousel of hype and noise and column inches, further feeding the monster. Television money has emboldened agents and their clients to push the envelope ever further.
Maybe it’s the era we live in, defined by a deranged political landscape, but the lies and half-truths seem to be getting worse - talkSPORT understands, S*N exclusive, Sky Sources suggest player x is close to agreeing terms with club y…(don’t forget to have a punt with Sky Bet). Agents do plant seeds, but the rumour mill hit rate is negligible at best.
Not that anyone cares. With declining readerships and advertising revenues, it’s all about numbers and clicks and impressions in a race to the bottom, with specifics and inaccuracies quickly forgotten. Many journalists like to double down, embellishing with new details to ‘prove’ they were right all along (hey, James Nursey).
Palace fans have endured this nonsense this summer with the Wilfried Zaha saga that never was a saga. It would be naive to think Zaha and his agent wouldn’t be open to offers, but it has been clear that he remains very happy at Palace, and would never become disruptive in agitating for a move.
Should Zaha leave next summer, you can be sure his departure will get the chattering classes going. It’s difficult to know how representative of an entire fan base online voices are, but message boards and social media can become toxic during transfer windows - Palace are enjoying an unprecedented spell of success, but you might not have known it for much of the summer.
The theory seems to hold that spending money equals ambition by default, with shiny new toys a guarantee of success. Many Palace fans have observed the scattergun approach of other clubs with envy, but quantity over quality is a risky game.
It can be difficult to remain patient when it’s made to feel like an endless footballing Christmas Eve, but some patience and perspective wouldn’t go amiss, acknowledging that Palace’s overall transfer record in recent years is far better than recency bias might suggest.
Steve Parish, Doug (sic) Freedman et al deserve credit for recalibrating the club’s recruitment policy against the backdrop of major infrastructure projects and tight finances. Marquee signings and lucrative contracts have left the club slightly financially hamstrung, though how can we argue previous approaches were wrong given the calibre of player and performance they secured?
Palace are now thinking further outside the box for value and answers, and the signs are encouraging. Signing Vicente Guaita and Max Meyer on ‘free’ transfers is outstanding business, with the latter a particular coup. The likely upside of Meyer, both on the pitch and financially, is huge.
Cheikhou Kouyate and Jordan Ayew may not set pluses racing quite so much, but they offer versatility and appear good fits for Roy Hodgson’s methodology. With Palace addressing problem areas and retaining their star names - Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek aside - it has to be regarded as a successful and clever window. There is still scope for fringe players to find new pastures later this month.
The incomings join an already excellent group of players, creating arguably the strongest squad the club has ever assembled. They will be working with a manager who loves nothing more than actually coaching, rather than reaching for the company credit card at the first sign of trouble.
The structure Hodgson brings - the defensive organisation, the offensive patterns - is perfect for this squad. With some rare managerial consistency, a fine pre-season under our belts and players returning from injury, there is cause for genuine optimism. So, let’s get things started.