We are now entering the last few days of the transfer window, when all clubs operate in a frenzy or as it’s better known panic mode. The January transfer window is still a relatively new concept and if anything, has created a market of fear, or mass hysteria if you watch Sky Sports News for too long. Most transfers are short term and instantly forgettable. However, here are ten January arrivals who left a lasting impression.
FLAIR and Birmingham City are not natural companions. Blues have always had to play second fiddle in the Second City to Aston Villa, and have spent long periods in different divisions. After 16 years, Steve Bruce guided them back to the top flight in 2002, although they were in a real fight to stay there. When January arrived, Bruce pulled off a masterstroke as he convinced Christophe Dugarry, a World Cup and European Championship winner with France, to join them. Instead of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry as team-mates, Dugarry now had Robbie Savage and Darren Purse. But he sprinkled some magic dust on St Andrews as a run of five goals in four matches catapulted Birmingham to safety. The Frenchman only scored one more goal for the club the following season but he had already done enough to win a place in the club’s Hall of Fame.
FORGIVE me for this one, although I’m sure Birmingham fans will. Obafemi Martins’ career at St Andrews consisted of only six matches and two goals. But when one of those goals wins a club’s first piece of silverware for 48 years, it is something extra special. Martins had only come on as an 83rd minute substitute with Birmingham drawing 1-1 with Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final and was on hand when Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny collided to stroke the ball into an empty net. He described it as ‘the easiest goal of his career’ but it sent Birmingham into ecstasy. The Nigerian never scored another goal for Blues and they went down from the Premier League two months later. But football is all about glory and Martins certainly provided that.
WHO would have thought that signing a New Zealander from Major League Soccer in the USA could prove to be a masterstroke? But it certainly was for Blackburn in 2005 when they acquired Ryan Nelsen on a free transfer. The centre half immediately appeared at home in English football as he helped Rovers avoid relegation under Mark Hughes. He remained a stalwart in East Lancashire for seven years, clocking up over 200 appearances as one of the Premier League’s most consistent and under-rated players. It was no surprise that the year he left Blackburn, they were relegated and have never looked like coming back.
WHEN Harry Redknapp returned to Portsmouth for a second time after his ill-fated spell at rivals Southampton, the club was in a mess. His year away had seen the team riddled with second-rate players and on a direct course for relegation. So, it needed one of Harry’s rescue acts, with him bringing in six players in January 2006. By March, they were still struggling until Pedro Mendes scored two sensational goals to help them beat Manchester City. That was the win they needed to catapult a run to safety with the Portuguese playing an integral role in midfield. It sparked a special period in the club’s history, which culminated in them winning the FA Cup at Wembley in May 2008. Of the six players Redknapp signed back in January 2006, Mendes was the only one to feature when they beat Cardiff 1-0.
NOT many people had heard of this unknown centre half when Sir Alex Ferguson brought him to Manchester United in 2006. When Vidic left last summer, the task of replacing him was enormous and it has still not been done. Ferguson found in Vidic the steel to Rio Ferdinand’s silk as the ideal defensive combination. Vidic loved a battle and the Serbian found himself at home in English football, happy to take on any forward in a battle. After eight and a half years in England, Vidic headed off to Inter Milan with five Premier League titles, one Champions League, one Club World Cup and three League cups, and a special place in the hearts of all United fans.
JAVIER MASCHERANO must have been bemused by his first few months in England. Having arrived with countryman Carlos Tevez at West Ham, Mascherano found himself kept out of the team by Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins, despite the Hammers slumping to the bottom of the Premier League. So it was no surprise that Mascherano leapt at the chance to join Liverpool in January 2007. He quickly struck up a mdifeld partnership with Xabi Alonso that was one of the best ever in the Premier League, and four months later, he was playing in the Champions League. His departure from Anfield in August 2010 to join Barcelona was further proof of the Reds slipping away from the teams at the top end of English football.
NOT much about Avram Grant’s reign is remembered fondly at Chelsea. But the arrival of Branislav Ivanovic in 2008 was certainly a big plus, whether it was Grant’s decision or not. He never kicked a ball for the Israeli, but he became an immediate regular under Luiz Felipe Scolari and has been the same for the six managers that have followed. That means Ivanovic must be doing a lot right. The Serbian is an excellent right back, a fine centre half and is known for popping up with some vital goals, as he showed against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final the other night. When he returns to Wembley for the final on March 1, Ivanovic will be chasing the only medal to escape him from his time at Stamford Bridge.
WITH Fulham in deep relegation trouble in 2008, manager Roy Hodgson decided a commanding centre-half was a matter of priority. So he used his Scandinavian contact book and found a giant 6ft 6in Norwegian. Not only did Hangeland help Fulham pull off a last-day escape that year but he would go on to become a cult hero. His performances were a key part in the Cottagers finishing a club-record seventh the following season before reaching the Europa League final in May 2010. Those were special times for Fulham and Hangeland was at the heart of the action.
BRINGING in a 33-year-old whose legs had gone and best days were behind him was regarded as madness on the part of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini shortly after his arrival in 2010. It also hinted at someone who had not grasped what was needed in English football. Wrong. Mancini decided that City needed a winner in the dressing room and that is Patrick Vieira in a nutshell. He didn’t provide any of the performances from his prime at Arsenal, but in 2011 in the FA Cup, Vieira appeared in all eight of City’s matches and scored three goals, and was on the pitch at the end for both the semi-final and the final. His winning mentality helped City over the line as they won their first trophy in 35 years. The Frenchman retired but City moved on to greater things, although he is now influencing the next generation at the club.
In 2011, Liverpool had a massive hole to fill and money burning in their pockets after the sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea for a whopping £50 million. They proceeded to give £35 million of that to Newcastle for Andy Carroll, but the decision to bring in Luis Suarez from Ajax for a shade under £23 million was inspired. Having knocked Ghana out of the World Cup with his infamous handball and bitten a PSV defender, we knew the Uruguayan would be explosive. He didn’t let us down in that regard, but love him or loathe him, he was brilliant for Liverpool. Suarez only won the Capital One Cup, but it was his 31 goals last season that took them so close to the Premier league title and won him the PFA Player of the Year and the Footballer of the Year awards. English football is poorer without him following his transfer to Barcelona last summer.
Those are my ten. What about yours? Can you name any of your club’s January transfer disasters?
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