WITH a six pack chilling and the laptop fired up I’ll be glued to Sky Sports News for the live transfer window spectacular on Thursday.
I’ll swig the beer to dull the window pain – but I don’t think I’ll be needing the laptop.
Feel free to join me here in the usual nose-pressed-up-against-the-window non-stop sarcastic singalong and annual Schadenfreude session.
It will be a quiet one. There was a time when goggle-eyed Boro fans could barely afford to tear their eyes away from the screen as a cash-crazed club ran amok through Europe scattering signing on fees in their wake.
Excited David Craig would be recounting the unfolding events outside in the Rockliffe car-park with the camera focussed long lens on a lighted office where you could just make out the blurry silhouette of Keith Lamb hard at work over a red hot fax as Big Ben’s gongs loomed.
Remember the airport sightings, furtive Tontine lunches with household names and frenzied texting and cyberspace ripples at reports that a Mercedes with the number-plate M3551 was driving lost around Hurworth?
Remember the moments of madness as the clock ticked down and the Afonso Alves price-tag went up past ridiculous and heading toward the rarified upper atmosphere of madness and beyond?
Remember the hectic competition winner midnight trolley dash of 2003 when Steve McClaren raced round Signings 4 U and grabbed Malcolm Christie and Chris Riggott from the slight seconds shelf heaved ‘England hitman’ Michael Ricketts in from the pies and puddings aisle?
That night was so frantic that the next day Boro emptied the basket and discovered they had forgotten they had picked up Doriva along the way.
Remember? There was a time when money was no object and Boro could plausibly make a move for – and be snubbed by – any marquee player on the planet.
Well, Thursday night won’t be anything like that. Oh no. We won’t even get a Lee Miller.
Our best bet for excitement is if the fizzing and sparking parody-powered T-3000 Android Scoopbot Jim White finally melts down and malfunctions then runs amok in the studio, strangling our Hayley before unleashing all out robot war on humanity. Live! We’ll be right back after the break!
Assuming that won’t happen – I think it will sooner or later but let’s err on the side of caution for now – Boro’s dramatic tension on the night will be fending off last gasp transfer ram-raids from rivals.
Boro’s biggest countdown conundrum will come if a big club comes in with an offer for one of Mogga’s ‘crown jewels.’
It is a sign of the times that there has been so little tabloid speculation about Boro players. A bit yes. Almost apologetic, half-hearted contractual obligation tittle-tattle that the authors don’t even really believe themselves.
A paragraph here about West Ham and West Brom having a peripheral interest in George Friend, a line tagged on the end of a sneering report on flappy wristed Brad Jones mentions a Liverpool watching brief on Jason Steele, an internet snippet suggests Swansea in for Marvin Emnes (checks date, oh scratch that one, its from last year.) Oh yes, it’s going to be a big one.
At this point it is mandatory to mention the prospect of “silly money” exchanging hands weakening Boro’s resolve. That is the international recognised Standard Unit in these things.
If a well wadded window shopper comes in with silly money for one of those key component parts then there will be some very hard decisions to make. Let’s hope Mogga doesn’t need to make them.
For the third window running Boro’s key strategic objective will be to hang on to first team fixtures and get to the fateful bongs still intact. There’s Thursday’s tension. Don’t expect to bring any new faces in. Boro haven’t got the money to do that.
Why else do you think Boro are preparing a pay-as-you-play short term deal for injury ravaged Kieron Dyer?
It is not because he is a long coveted player that Mogga sees as the final piece of the jigsaw, the one player he always wanted to make the midfield machine tick.
It is because he is available. It is because he is free. It is because his chequered past and BUPA loyalty card mean he is willing to accept low wages and terms weighted heavily in favour of the club. He doesn’t want a two year deal, a big basic and a signing on fee.
That makes him a no-risk signing, a cut-price addition to the squad. If he is fit and can bring something different, why not?
He may well turn out to be a figure in the mould of portly pass-master Bobby Murdoch who arrived on a free, long past his best, overweight and with creaking knees but who pulled the strings and galvanised a promotion push.
He could equally turn out to be like Branco, a portly pass-master on a free, long past his best and with the mobility of the Angle of the North who er, was a complete an utter disaster. We’ll see. If he is, he can be pedalled quickly at no cost.
But that he is even being considered when Boro fans are crying out for Luciano Becchio, Chris Burke or Charlie Austin tells its own story.
Yes, Boro could do with an out and out goalscorer to convert some of those chances but without sacrificing a trump card, say Steele, it is not going to happen on Thursday.
Boro can’t compete for those players, even against well resourced Championship sides.
“Why don’t they sign Barry Robson instead of Dyer,” goes up the cry. He’s here. He’s training. He’s a free agent. It is just as convenient for everyone.
Well, tactic considerations and squad balance aside – Grant Leadbitter was brought in to do the midfield drive role and is doing it well – the key is that he would want a two year deal and would want a wage somewhere close to where he was at Boro six months ago.
Even on a ‘conservative’ eight grand a week that is a hefty £800,000 investment in a 34-year-old. Sheffield United have clearly got more dosh than Boro right now. And beside, they need to bring in someone to fight for the ball from Tony Mac at free-kicks,
Boro couldn’t afford to splash out that kind of money on a short-term stop gap who has left once. That is the wages of a player they may want and need in the summer in the next phase of the team rebuilding.
“Why doesn’t Gibson show some ambition?” shouts the phone-in and pub chorus. “Get us promoted. Get the Bennett money spent!”
The word “ambition” in football is interchangeable with the word “money.” And there is plenty of that being shown.
Steve Gibson is still spending the best part of £1m a month to support a club that has massive running costs, declining revenue and – still, despite all the pruning – one of the biggest millstone wage bills in the Championship.
And there is no “Bennett money.” It wasn’t put in a little box marked “transfer kitty”. It has been swallowed up by the day to day needs of the club long ago. And rightly so.
All income the club can raise goes to run the operation as a whole: the stadium up-keep and utilities, the pitch, the rates, running the training complex, the £2.5m a year for the Academy, scouting, travel and hotels for the team at away games… it all adds up.
The club is currently losing about £800k a month, and Gibson is writing a cheque to cover the shortfall. That is the extent of his “ambition.”
After wiping the £90m debt of two years ago there is no outside financial pressure – no banks or major creditors to pay – hence no “need” to sell but equally, the club is far from flush and there is no room in the wage bill to commit to long term contracts unless the manager can clear space first.
That situation will ease in the summer when the costly Steve McManus and Nicky Bailey deals are up and those wages can be redistributed. In the meantime any gaps will be filled will dirt cheap or free transfers, loans or creative work in the market.
So don’t expect yellow rolling ticker-tape or Jim White’s head to start spinning and his circuits blow out over anything Boro do on Thursday.
But pass me a beer.
Join in with the the annual multi-media deadline day live joke, rumour and – occasionally – news update marathon here on the blog or via twitter @untypicalboro You kinow it makes sense. And I promise not to run amok or spontaneously combust.