I’ve always thought the January transfer window is a serious test of resolve for chairmen, managers and players – and it’s something I’d like to see scrapped.
Often, with clubs either attempting to escape deep trouble or trying to maintain a challenge for Europe or a top six finish and the extra money which accompanies that, it’s a time when big chances are taken on attitudes, form and fitness of players.
Depending on the needs of clubs, it’s also a time when big decisions must be taken whether to buy or sell or indeed do both.
Dundee United must decide whether it makes sense to alleviate their goal drought by splashing the cash now to secure the services of Tony Watt or wait until summer when he is a free agent.
Similarly Motherwell must weigh up whether a fee now from United, which would allow them to try to replace their man, is more beneficial than retaining a striker on a hot streak who may propel them to a higher finish and perhaps a Euro spot.
United may also have to decide whether hanging on to the services of Jeando Fuchs is crucial or negotiable if a rumoured bid for him materializes.
In all such scenarios many factors are in play; chief among them the views and attitude of a player who has either set his mind on a move or who may become disenchanted or unfocussed staying where he is when an immediate move to a bigger club – or for more money – is on offer at this time.
Trying to get poorly performing loanees or contracted players off the books at this time, while trying to bring in players in a similar position from elsewhere, is fraught with difficulties and the success rate at this stage of the season of bringing in new faces is far from certain.
I’ve long thought that the transfer window is just another restraint of trade in football and I’d prefer to scrap it completely.
It’s a lottery and as with all gambling there are many more losers than winners, as I suspect we’ll see over the coming months.
The two great success stories of 2021 in Scottish football are St Johnstone and Arbroath.
The wheels might be shoogly on Saints’ wagon at the moment as they prop up the Premiership table, but a Scottish Cup and League Cup secured in one season is a feat unlikely to be repeated in our game by anyone outside of Parkhead or Ibrox for a very long time.
Saints may be in a dogfight to retain their top league status but the events of February and May 2021 are firmly stamped in the history books as an incredible achievement in the Scottish game.
Meanwhile, Arbroath’s stellar progress under Dick Campbell and his twin brother Ian, admirably aided by an ambitious, visionary and forward thinking board has been a joy to behold.
Top of the Championship as the year turns and only defeated twice in 19 outings is a phenomenal achievement.
Coaching and managing football players are two different skills.
Some bosses excel at one and fail at the other. Dick, with his vast experience and grounded outlook, honed and sharpened in the working class solidarity of Fife as a young man, has been a runaway success at both.
He identifies the right type of characters for the part-time life in which football can’t always take priority over work and family commitments, and he gets the very best out of them.
That speaks volumes for the kind of men who pull the maroon jersey over their heads.
The Lichties have assembled a great group of grafters and go-getters who sprinkle liberal talent with lateral thinking against a league of full-time and, in most cases, more highly paid opponents.
It’s been a triumph of desire, dedication and discipline.
Irrespective of how this term finishes, the last few seasons have shown Gayfield in a great light as the Red Lichties have lit up the Scottish scene.
For the Dundee clubs it’s been a mixed year and one which, on current form for both, can’t depart quickly enough.
United’s fortunes have taken a marked turn for the worse with nine games without a win in the league, but their terrific start has offered sanctuary from what would have been an unmitigated disaster had their present form been shown throughout.
Dundee looked like rallying recently but have since fallen from grace and are nearest bedfellows to St Johnstone in the relegation stakes.
There’s nothing that can be done about the ghosts of Christmas past for Messrs Davidson, Courts, and McPake, but all of them need fresh faces to lay to rest the spectre of continued failure for the remainder of the season.
United have moved swiftly for Tony Watt and the deal for the in-form Motherwell striker, if sealed in time for a January move to Tannadice, would be a huge boost to a side which is tidy and neat but scores infrequently.
At Dens and McDiarmid Park, late Christmas presents of fresh faces in the New Year sales are desperately needed to try to lift the deep, midwinter gloom.