THE BLOG

Time to Hit the January Sales?

13/01/2014 12:49 GMT | Updated 12/03/2014 09:59 GMT

The January sales are a long-standing British tradition - and football clubs across the country will have their shopping trolleys at the ready, as they enter the second half of their respective campaigns.

As Big Ben chimed us into 2014, the transfer window was thrust open, and so begins the most frantic - and financially frivolous - four weeks of the season.

But as an ex-football club owner, and having been involved in the game across Europe for over two decades, I've never quite understood the need for a winter transfer window.

Ultimately, there is plenty of time for clubs to get their business done and dusted in the summer - and I believe that abolishing the now-traditional January spending spree would encourage managers and owners to better forward plan, and make more responsible and reasoned judgements.

The knock-on effect of closing the window for good in September would be an increased reliance and dependency on young talent - and with the future of English football currently hanging in the balance, that's surely no bad thing.

After all, the emergency loan window still exists should there be an immediate and urgent demand for cover in a particular position.

I understand, of course, that many football supporters enjoy the rumours and speculation which go hand in hand with the wheeling and dealing of the window.

But the truth is that allowing clubs to spend for such a short period of time in the midst of a busy campaign causes a series of headaches for both managers and owners.

Their woes are only exacerbated by the involvement of agents and advisors, who can seize on the instability that January brings, and are often paid extortionate, and unregulated, amounts of money for their services.

No club wants to sell their prized assets halfway through a season, but as the old saying goes, 'every player is available for the right price'.

And there lies the problem. It is amazing at how quickly supporter expectation and media pressure can change at a club, as a result of their start to the season.

If a side is, somewhat unexpectedly, challenging at the right end of the table, supporters demand investment in order to continue that success, and to 'see their club over the line'.

Alternatively, if a side is floundering when pre-season expectations were to challenge for silverware, the pressure is piled on owners to buy their way out of trouble.

Take Manchester United this season. They are the most successful club in British football history, but losing Chief Executive David Gill as well as boss Sir Alex Ferguson has left a huge shadow over Old Trafford.

In many ways, new manager David Moyes was doomed from the start, as he and Gill's replacement Ed Woodward failed to secure target after target over the summer.

The last-gasp capture of Marouane Fellaini abated supporter pressure only temporarily - and it soon became apparent that United were desperately in need of new additions.

Last year's champions will now be expected to spend big this month in order to correct a slump which has left them all but out of the running to retain the Premier League title, dumped out of the FA Cup, and on the back foot in the League Cup.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Manchester, their rivals City find themselves going strong in four competitions, with a balanced squad to choose from - and the Etihad Stadium well and truly has the feel good factor around it.

Of course, they have a substantial war chest to throw at potential new signings, but boss Manuel Pellegrini has already stated that he believes stability is key to their success, and he is unlikely to dip into the market this month.

I am convinced that their strong position as we enter January is testament to the way that their Spanish duo, Chief Executive Ferran Soriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain, swiftly and quietly went about their business in the summer.

The pair are both intelligent football people and vastly experienced - and, having both spend successful periods at Barcelona, perhaps they could teach the British game a thing or two about developing future talent.

The Camp Nou side are one of many top clubs in my native Spain who take the opportunity to blood their youngsters using feeder clubs and second teams, and I believe that it is a method which would benefit the English game immensely.

Premier League sides have already made clear that they would welcome a formal feeder club system - and it is a proposition being examined by new FA Chairman Greg Dyke and his recently assembled commission.

Barcelona II, which currently plays in the Segunda Division, has given the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi invaluable experience at an early stage in their development - and the result is mature 18 and 19 year old players who already have 50+ professional games under their belt by the time they reach the senior squad.

Current Everton loanee Gerard Deulofeu is another one off that production line, and Toffees boss Roberto Martinez has been confident enough to throw the youngster into top-level encounters even though he has made just two appearances for the Barcelona senior team.

Some eye-catching Premier League performances of late suggest that he is certainly reaping the benefits of 60-odd games played over two seasons plying his trade in the Spanish second tier.

The benefits of such a system are clear to see - it is simply a question of whether English football is ready to accept such a change.

But with the national game at a low ebb, Dyke et al. must fully explore any avenue which could benefit lower league clubs and aid the development of young players - however unpopular.

It is just another step that the Football Association must take in the quest to safeguard the future of English football.