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How a sports writer spends his day off on transfer-deadline day
IT has become an established part of the sporting calendar, indeed Sky Sports yesterday described it as “one of the most important days of the year”. But what does a Chief Sports Writer do if he's spending transfer window on a day off looking after his young daughter? Scott Wilson, with a little help from one-year-old Rosie, reports
If you're going to do anything on transfer-deadline day, it pays to do it early rather than get caught in the last-minute rush. So bang on 9am, we found ourselves heading into a soft play centre in Darlington.
Unable to switch out of journalist mode, I asked the receptionist if she was expecting to do much business in the rest of the day.
“No, not us,” she said. “We tend to do all our business in the summer. It's so hard to pick up a bargain in January. If you're scouring around in January, you're basically picking up other people's Christmas cast-offs, and there's always a premium with that.
“People still do it though. Last year, I know of another soft-play centre that got offered a blow-up wizard's castle on January 31 and panicked. Twelve months on, and it's never been out of the cupboard.
Leaving Rosie in the ball pool, I was surprised to look around and see Newcastle's chief scout Graham Carr watching on.
“Didn't expect to see you here Graham,” I said. “To be honest, it's a complete waste of time,” he answered. “The English kids are way behind when it comes to ball-pool talent.
“I was in a soft play in Boulogne last week and the French kids were doing ten keepy-uppys at a time before volleying one of the balls through a basketball hoop. These kids here are too interested in their Fruit Shoots.”
As if to underline the point, Rosie tried to kick a ball but only succeeded in booting the back wheel of a ride-on tractor. We exited in tears.
On the way back home, we had to call in at Maplins at Teesside Park because I need some printer ink to print off the pictures of Rosie at Christmas. It was a major surprise to see former Boro chief executive Keith Lamb loitering next to the help desk.
“Do you still sell fax machines? It's an emergency,” Keith was saying. “Look Keith, you don't need to do that any more,” I said as I took him to one side and tried to calm him down. “You're no longer signing players for Middlesbrough, and anyway, you were the only person in the world still using a fax machine anyway.”
“But I've got Michael Ricketts' agent on hold and I promised him a draft contract in the hour,” Keith raged. I made my excuses and left.
DEAL DONE: One more stop before home – the kids' charity shop in Yarm. I'd listened to the warnings, but I was desperate to prove it was still possible to pick up a bargain on January deadline day.
However, I knew it wasn't going to be easy when I pulled into a car parking space and spotted a Range Rover alongside me. Sure enough, Harry Redknapp was already checking out the wares.
Rosie picked out two Bob the Builder figures – ironically, one of them was Scoop – but Harry was after the same toys.
Thankfully, he couldn't promise to play with them ahead of Loic Remy, while Rosie's keenness to use them straight away was obvious from the way she stuck them both in her mouth and slavered. They were formally unveiled on the living room floor an hour or so later.
DEAL SCUPPERED: One of the problems nowadays is that you can't keep your deadline-day business a secret. Social media, camera phones, fans' forums, eventually news of what you're doing gets out. And sometimes, the board doesn't agree with what you're planning.
I'd been toying with the idea of getting Rosie her first football shirt online for a few weeks and thought deadline-day was probably the right time to do it.
With the laptop powered up, I was just about to click purchase on the internet site, when the wife rang from work.
“Don't think I don't know what you're doing,” she said. “I've seen your internet history on those football shirt sites and someone's posted a picture from their camera phone of Rosie trying on an England top in JJB Sports.
“There's no room in the budget for another shirt. Pull the plug on it, and we'll think again come the summer.”
With Rosie safely tucked up in bed, I thought I'd take a cheeky look at Sky Sports News just to see what I'd missed.
Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to check the volume on the remote, so when Jim White came on the screen, his booming Scottish tones filled the house.
“Absolutely unbelievable,” he roared. “I cannot believe that Wigan now look like passing up the chance Norwich City's third-choice left-back.”
Sure enough, his screams woke up Rosie, and I had to spend the next 30 minutes singing Incy Wincy Spider trying to get her back to sleep. The sooner they scrap the transfer window system, the better.
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