Deadline day passed with barely a headline for eager TV news channels. It reminded NORMAN GILLER how lucky he was not to land one job
This week’s transfer deadline day provided some priceless TV comedy. Producing the laughs were the unfortunate Sky Sports News team, who were stoked up for a day of drama only to find the transfer market less busy than a village fete stall.
With a cast the size of a Cecil B de Mille epic, spread around the country’s clubs and training grounds, Sky reporters took it in turns to find ways of describing, er, well, not a lot.
I’m a veteran of dozens of deadline days, and I sympathised with the presenters as they were reduced to filling hours of screen time with gossip, speculation and, frankly, a load of old tosh.
Rumours included David Silva being seen in Manchester, Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson and David Bentley in Liverpool, and Franck Ribery was spotted getting off a plane at Heathrow. None of these “reports” had any substance.
To pump up the excitement, there was a countdown clock on the screen running down in minutes to the deadline. Instead of adding to the tension it underlined the fact that very little was happening. Alan Partridge could have entered the Sky studio at any time to give it a true comedy edge.
The non-activity showed that â€” hopefully â€” football is coming to its senses, with clubs forced by the economic climate to stop throwing money around as though it were confetti (exclude moneybags Manchester City from that assumption).
Let me assure you that my old mate Harry Redknapp got away with the steal of the season when he persuaded Portsmouth, his former club, to part with Niko Kranjcar for Â£2.75 million. He is a Â£10 million pound player if ever I saw one. Down on the South Coast where I live, Pompey fans are weeping buckets.
Fratton Park was well covered by the Sky cameras because they had a strong tip that goalkeeper David James was also making the trip to team up with his old boss Harry Hotspur. A breathless on-the-spot reporter told us that we would not miss any sudden departure by James, He was, he revealed, friendly with the club security man, who was watching all exits on the CCTV cameras.
We kept getting shots of James wandering around in his tracksuit, and I fully expected the camera to follow him into the toilet. The deadline was moments away before they had to concede David James was going nowhere.
Fred Dinenage, an exceptional broadcaster over a span of more than 30 years, is a Meridian news anchorman these days with close ties with Portsmouth, where he has been a respected director. He must be bewildered by what is happening to his club, which has let players go as if in a fire sale.
Fred is a class act who knows all about PR. I lost out to Fred for a PR role back in the 1960s. The job was to represent the Kray twins and improve their public image.
Reggie and Ronnie interviewed three journalists for the post, Peter “The Poet” Batt, who was then a news reporter on the Daily Herald, Fred Dinenage and me.
I lost any chance of the job when I told the twins I worked closely with Mickey Duff on his launching of the Anglo-American Sporting Club at the Park Lane Hilton. Unbeknown to me, Mickey had bravely turned down their application for membership, and was rewarded by the delivery of a dead rat to his home.
It was not a job with legs. In 1969, the twins were locked away for life for the little matter of armed robbery, protection rackets, arson and the murders of rival gangsters Jack “The Hat” McVitie and George Cornell.
Even Dinenage – by then a familiar face on television through the children’s programme How! and his frequent anchor appearances on World of Sport – would have struggled to give that a good news spin.
But covering the football transfer deadlines was fairly tame by comparison.
Read previous Norman Giller columns by clicking here.
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