By Sir Hardly Anyone
And so as the word “slammed” is taken out of its cupboard and prepared to be given a massive overdose of multiple use by so-called journalists, we approach the last mile, the final furlong, the extra yard and the finish line which is not so much about to be passed with glory as stumbled over in a beer sodden haze.
For yes the football expert commentator journalists are gathered in the pub for the final three day stint. In one corner a tall and thin man sits looking rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while opposite lingers another, short and solid, like a scrum half wondering not so much where the ball is but whether there is a ball at all.
Across the room there is the cold and haughty man from the Times who wonders how it all came to this while the man from the Express looks as if he has just returned from conducting human sacrifices and has entered the bar for a little light relief. A lady journalist joins the throng looking like an austere governess, causing several of her male counterparts to shuffle awkwardly as they remember the time they were 12 years old and had just been caught reading something unseemly during maths.
And all the while the barman is jovial and bonhomous passing out the drinks and adding to the tab while a latecomer who fears he has missed the BIG STORY enters with a dark frown, a bitten lip and flashing eyes, followed by a willowy figure who seems to have caught a chill and got sunburned at the same time.
Each acknowledges the other and the dealing begins. For now, they need to decide, who will be the young men who in this fantasy land will be transferred in these last few minutes before the window slams… well you know how it goes.
The cards are shuffled, the names picked at random and the journalists say “I don’t mind if I do.” And these are the stories for the last three days.
1: Domagoj Vida
The man from the Sun says this is the one but only if Arsenal can sell first. He’s a Croatian defender (Vida not the man from the Sun) and Arsenal need Croatian defenders for reasons that don’t become clear at this time. £25m is the fee says the man from Hard Tackle agreeing.
The EPSN team also go with this claiming Vida was the anchor to the Croat team and that Liverpool have had two offers rejected. So Arsenal are going to pay £25m – everyone nods. But someone must go first. Why first, when the selling window goes on until the end of the month? No one knows. But yes, someone must go first.
Callum Chambers going is the deal clue says the Standard’s man. Football Talk’s scribbler nods. A man from Mynet in Turkey agrees. Glasses are raised. Done deal, story complete. One down.
2: Jerome Boateng
Red London is sure on this one although Man U are also making enquiries. Everyone laughs. Man U enquired about the barman in the Toppled Bollard last week. The Mirror’s man claims that Arsenal have equalled United’s bid of £45m. No one laughs. Several make notes. It’s agreed. Story two.
3: Ricardo Rodriguez
The journo from the Express is now quoting the Mail – which raises questions. Would you trust a man from the Express quoting a man from the Mail who says that Arsenal are going to get Rodriguez before the pub shuts or the transfer window closes whichever is the sooner.
The Mirror’s man concurs – Arsenal have an injury crisis. “Do they?” ask others making a note on beer stained laptops “They always do” says the Mirror Man, “I read it in the paper,” and everyone writes down, “Arsenal are reportedly considering a late move for AC Milan left back Ricardo Rodriguez to cover injury crisis”
“It’s the £30m solution to the problem position,” says the man from Kick Off. “The man from Milan”. “That’s a bit too clever clever for my liking,” says the man from the Express.
“There’s a last minute deal,” shout five at once when the Welshman is mentioned. “Defender in shock exit as Ramsey agent speaks out and Arsenal accept bid,” says the man from
5: Lucas Pérez,
“He’s going to West Ham,” is the cry, but no one bothers to make a note. “Everyone’s going to West Ham” is the general view. Besides why would WHU buy Moussa Marega for £36m when they can have Lucas for £5m?
“Tell you what,” says a newcomer hot in from the hot streets, “Mark Hughes says Southampton’s summer spend is ‘likely’ to ‘probably’ be over, which is at least two steps short of a full commitment.”
“Arsenal could move to sign Ricardo Rodriguez from AC Milan” says the man from the Mail and everyone pours beer over him with shouts of “Do try to keep up”.
“But the Gunners have an injury crisis at left-back with both Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac out for the start of the new Premier League season,” he says, and there is a mix of boos and sarcastic applause.
“How about this one,” says the man from Express “Arsenal transfer news: How Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stopped Ousmane Dembele deal.”
The table becomes hushed. They wait. Could this be, your actual, proper news? The main lead? The BIG ONE??? Amazed at the attention he has the man from the Express says “Because Arsenal don’t need Dembele because they have Auba.”
There is silence until one says, “Is that it?” There is mumbling. Chairs scrape backwards over the floor as men and women rise. The man from the Express scarpers to the bar to buy a round.
And so finally the man from Foot Lond coughs and silence falls for here the master of the 40 a day will speak. “£30m solution identified, the secret behind midfielder signing revealed.”
Numbed fingers at the end of podgy arms battle with keyboards to capture the tale. Everyone looks up. “Steven Nzonzi continues to be linked, while speculation surrounding Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele,” says the man from Foot Lond.
“What is the connection between your headline statement and your storyline?” asks a trainee journalist who has been making notes while sipping lemon and lime through the day.
There is much muttering about paying respect to elders and betters and he is sent off to load the dishwasher as a way of paying off some of the tabs.
8: Martin Keown knows
Then the man from the Express clears his throat and rises unsteadily to resume his position of authority. Finding this is an untenable position he drops back to his chair. “Martin Keown reveals Unai Emery’s deadline day plans – EXCLUSIVE,” he says. There are smiles and knowing winks. This is going to be good. With his audience settled and silent the man from the Express continues in a portentous voice…
“Arsenal boss Unai Emery is unlikely to add any more players to his squad this week.”
Oh how they laugh, and not just at each others jokes, for they, beyond all men, know that yes you can con most of the people most of the time but you can’t escape the bar tab. Unless you can find a trainee to do the washing up.
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