Four days to go and the chips are down

WITH four transfer days to go before the window shuts, DEREK DAVIS looks at the ins and outs of the deal-making.

Derek Davis

WITH four transfer days to go before the window shuts, DEREK DAVIS looks at the ins and outs of the deal-making.

DAVID Norris will be at Portman Road on Tuesday but most probably playing for Plymouth Argyle and not, as hoped, for Jim Magilton's Ipswich Town.

With the transfer window closing at midnight on Thursday it is not too late for Magilton to land his number one target. However, it would be insensitive and improbable that even if Norris were allowed to leave it would be done in time for tomorrow's night's match.

The timing of the game is yet another obstacle and factor in the minefield that is the January transfer window.

The whole Norris saga sums up the brinkmanship, delicate negotiations and problems facing clubs, players, agents, supporters and the media, in this unique system.

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There is no other business where a person is not allowed to move from one employee to another without so many hoops to jump through.

Implemented by FIFA in the 2002/03 season but only adopted by the Premier League in this country at the time, the transfer window came about after intense negotiations with the European commission who were considering banning paid transfers full stop as they felt it infringed human rights and freedom of workers movement within the EU.

The introduction of two-month long windows was a compromise and although the Football League strongly disapproved they fell into line last season.

Very few people within football, it seems, feel it is a good idea.

Blues' boss Jim Magilton is not a huge fan, but rather than be negative about it, tries to work with the system. He said: “It is here so we have to get on with it.”

Magilton used last season's window to bring in Jon Walters from Chester City, he also made Gary Roberts' move from Accrington Stanley permanent and secured George O'Callaghan from Cork City.

In this window he has had specific targets. Norris, Gareth McAuley and finally Alan Quinn, who he secured.

The Quinn deal was relatively simple.

Magilton wanted to take him on loan last October but Bryan Robson blocked the move. When it became clear that Robson would not stand in the way this time round Magilton nipped in again and this time the £400,000 deal between the two clubs was settled quickly.

Bids for Norris and McAuley have not been as easy.

Norris was a target last summer but Ian Holloway was having none of it and his board were in full agreement and knocked back a £1m bid from Southampton, while Town hung back.

In this window it is Town who made the positive moves going in with two bids, both rejected while Saints, Norwich, Wolves, Charlton and Leicester City watch with interest.

Town fans have grown as frustrated as Magilton during the negotiations that have been handled at board level.

Magilton has made his feelings known and left the wheeling and dealing to David Sheepshanks.

For any transfer to work, as in the Quinn deal, you need to satisfy three parties, four if the agent muddies the waters.

The buying club and the selling club have to agree a price and the player has to be willing to leave and join the new club, usually on a longer contract and better money than his previous contract.

With McAuley, Leicester don't want to sell, the players appears to have been appeased with a new offer, but that may not stop Town trying once more.

In the Norris situation two of the three have been satisfied, but the Argyle board have other factors to consider.

The fee has to be right, not helped by the 50 per cent sell on to Bolton, and this can be the case in many transfers with add-ons and bonuses attached that someone has to pay.

Plymouth also have their own angry mob of fans to placate after selling key players already, especially Barry Hayles to Ian Holloway at Leicester.

It also means they don't have to sell for financial reasons.

But, coupled with that is the knowledge they have an unsettled player on their hands.

Norris has had a transfer request rejected but his failure to train in the early part of last week underlines how disgruntled he is.

Town watch patiently knowing Norris is interested in joining them.

Despite Ipswich's good reputation, it is not always the case that players want to come to Portman Road.

Geographically it is not always the most attractive place in terms of distance with players from the north, and even the midlands, being pit off.

For Norris who wants to be near his Cambridgshire-based family that is not an issue.

Another factor, especially for young players is Ipswich are not considered a sexy team. It is six years since they were in the Premiership and people have short memories.

All these are points that Magilton has to overcome but the plus points are evident for those that visit Portman Road and Playford Road training centre.

Joe Royle used to bemoan the distance but knew that if he could get his target to East Anglia to have a look around they would be sold.

Jason De Vos is a case in point.

De Vos was wanted by a couple of other teams but once he saw the set up at Ipswich he was sold and all other talks were academic.

The length of the window compounds all these problems with time becoming essential

Although more than 200 transfers have already been completed, this last week is expected to bring about a large flurry of activity.

Town for example, will move to bring in at least one more player with the homework having already been done.

But if they went, for example, to sign Barry Robson at Dundee United, they will find three or four other clubs also desperate to do a deal with time running out and that definitely suits the selling club, who in turn, must be careful not to lose out completely.

Over the weekend Dundee United chairman Eddie Thompson said he was expecting more bids from England today for his skipper.

Celtic are among the clubs to have shown an interest in Robson along, it is believed, with Burnley and Nottingham Forest. It is thought Dundee United are holding out for around £1.25million.

Thompson said: "We've had offers for Barry, but we've turned them down and I'm expecting more bids from south of the border on Monday morning.”

This time of year it is now all about keeping your nerve.