Every year in America on February 2nd, hundreds of people gather to watch the groundhog emerge from its hole, in the hope that it will be cloudy and spring will come early. And dreading that if the sun shines the groundhog will see its shadow and winter will last for another six weeks.
In Europe, January 31st marks the closure of the transfer window, the last day when clubs can sign new players or offload old ones. Get it right and the next 6 weeks will seem like spring has come early, but get it wrong and the next six weeks will seem like winter will last forever.
This year soccer’s very own groundhog day culminated in a mixture of fortunes for all concerned. For David Beckham the day was almost certainly a cloudy one and he can now look forward to playing for his new club Paris Saint-Germain and springtime in Paris. However, for a couple of Premier League clubs and for one player in particular, the shadows loomed large and long.
That one player was West Bromwich Albion’s Peter Odemwingie. His decision to take matters into his own hands and drive the 100 miles to try and join QPR in the last few hours before the window closed backfired spectacularly. Under the impression the clubs technical director had given him permission to join QPR the confused striker said farewell to his teammates, packed his bags and headed to the capital to sign on the dotted line. Sadly for Odemwingie, he had got his wires well and truly crossed, the forward had never been granted permission to speak to the London Club, and the bizarre chain of events saw Odemwingie being denied access to the QPR ground, at which point he had to return to Albion’s training ground to face the music on Friday morning. His manager described his actions as “total lunacy”.
Tottenham failed to sign a single striker before the window closed, and now face the prospect of their only recognized striker being sidelined for two months after he damaged ankle ligaments at the weekend - spring will seem a long way away.
Meanwhile QPR’s future hinges on their new signings. With over 5 new players coming to the club (costing a staggering $32m) the pressure is on for these new signings to bed down quickly and help the club battle against relegation from the Premiere League. If the club does go down life in the Championship (along with their astronomical wage bill) will be comparable to a permanent ice age for the London club.
Newcastle however, made the most of their cloudy day and signed six highly rated young French players (costing a total of $17m), with Moussa Sissoko scoring two brilliant goals on his debut against Chelsea this weekend. Things have already started to bloom nicely for the struggling club.
With the transfer window now well and truly shut, Premier League clubs spent over $188m on new players, the fourth biggest total since the window was introduced in 2003. The next six weeks will determine which clubs are going to enjoy an early spring and which clubs are going to suffer six more weeks of winter. After all, the so-called new star players could turn out to be nothing more than a bunch of groundhogs.