Transfer Deadline Day. Three words that have come to epitomise modern football. A symbol of football's growing disparity away from game we lapped up as kids. The game that had that imaginary endpoint, that hopeful pinnacle on the horizon of appearing at Wembley, watching as your bruising centre-back holds aloft the trophy. Roy of the Rovers stuff? Maybe. Sentimental rubbish? Probably.
However, a large piece of footballing magic has been lost. Whole Saturday's that used to be devoted to the FA Cup Final, have been washed away amongst a wave of disenchantment and mixed up priorities. In its place, amongst the dour pre-match interviews talking of the importance of finishing in 14th position, transfer deadline day has become an event in itself, shifting newspapers and filling gossip columns with stories of spending power and agent fees.
The big day looms over the hill at the end of both January and August like some extreme version of Supermarket sweep. A disastrous condensing of the game into a Monday lunchtime browse through the football gossip pages and dream team selections. All with the predictably tedious sight of Harry Redknapp claiming to have "done a bit of business' whilst being interviewed through his car window.
Sky Sports News presenters, each wearing hideously coloured ties and over exaggerated smiles wait for the next correspondent to report from an empty car-park in Sunderland, claiming to have seen Gianluca whatshisface arrive by helicopter. Whilst at the same time millions up and down the country pray for their chairman to open up their chequebooks to buy just one more player, howling castigation through the medium of social media if they choose to stick to the financial fair play rules rather than risk potential financial ruin on some unknown Ukrainian.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Jim White, the grey haired, white toothed, slightly unhinged Sky Sports News presenter explains, "You need a big one to get things rolling," says White. "Gareth Bale was that last time -- it meant there was a lot of money sloshing about and Tottenham were spending."
It is football for the consumer generation, the kind of football that has only existed since 1992. The kind of football that sees managers such as Aston Villa's Paul Lambert stating that he wished the FA Cup "would just go away", to risk everything on Premiership survival. A reaction that typifies the reality of football's oldest club competition; that of the FA Cup now being on par with the League Cup in terms of importance.
The FA Cup still has it's moments of magic. Wigan's gargantuan victory over Man City was a reminder of the magic the cup can still bring. But while last years Cup Final showed the enduring beauty of the giant killing it is but a faint glimmer of hope amongst an otherwise forgotten competition. There is obviously no direct link between the FA Cup Final and transfer deadline day but it is all too easy to compare the rise and fall of each in perfect symmetry. Whilst FA Cup Final day is condensed into a series of Adrian Chiles cliches, transfer deadline day is now courted with so much publicity and advertising that it has become some sort of sordid celebration of player-power and financial irresponsibility.
It is a sad indictment of where the game has gone when the pinnacle of the domestic game is almost a forgotten sideshow. With spending figures paraded in the media like some kind of badge of honour, deadline day seems to feed into this culture of greed and expectation that has trickled down from foreign ownership and Premier League TV deals. What it has created is a football elite that, due to the money associated with the Premier League, places its emphasis solely on Premiership survival at all costs, with cup competitions sacrificed to make way.
Many just won't see the connection. They will point towards the monetisation of modern football as a means to an end, an inevitability that has pushed the Premier League into the wealth-creating stratosphere, bringing in star players and international success. However, In the end it leaves you constantly redefining what it is to be a modern day football supporter. Is it to see your team striving for mid-table mediocrity, turning their back on the potential on the magic a cup run can bring? Or is it to sit in front of Sky Sports News waiting to hear about combined transfer totals and private jets whisking self-obsessed players to sign mercenary contracts before midnight?Suggest a correction