COLUMN: ‘Deadline day fans became self aware and went rogue - it was like Terminator 2’

Dayle Southwell.
Dayle Southwell.

Pete Brooksbank convinced himself that Boston United were set to bring goalscorer Ricky Miller back to York Street on loan. That may not have happened, but our monthly columnist is consoling himself by enjoying the mob rule which overshadowed Sky Sports’ deadline day coverage...

Remember the date: September 1, 2014. To many, those with actual lives, just another dreary Monday back at work.

But to the rest of us, hopelessly addicted to the pantomime that is football, September 1 was a significant watershed moment in the history of football television coverage. An epoch, if you like.

The world will never be the same again. If you thought the revolution started with BT Sport relocating the score to the bottom left corner, or employing Michael Owen to state the obvious in a drawl so dull even trees fall asleep, you were wrong.

No, September 1 was the day that the crowd of gurning oddballs who converge behind Sky reporters on transfer deadline day finally became sentient.

Grim-faced experts have been predicting this cataclysm for years. It finally happened.

No longer content with simply having their mugs on television, the fans suddenly became self-aware and went rogue. It was a bit like Terminator 2.

It started, as all revolutions do, with modest dissent. The odd obscenity, followed by a flustered apology from a reporter probably wishing he’d applied for that internship watering plants at Al-Jazeera instead.

With hilarious inevitability, it soon escalated, and zero hour occurred when an overly-excited supporter thrust what is most diplomatically described as an ‘adult toy’ into the ear of a journalist who looked more angry than embarrassed as a security guard belatedly leapt to his defence.

Elsewhere, another lad wearing the kind of cheap sunglasses that clearly indicted he wasn’t there for transfer gossip burst towards the camera to yell a well-worn catchphrase so obscene that it’s not even possible to give you the redacted version without getting someone at The Standard sacked.

Finally, another fan delved into the darker recesses of his wardrobe and arrived with an inflatable that definitely wasn’t shaped like a beach ball.

Sky gave up: reporters sought refuge inside the Arsenal training ground or simply moved away from the crowd.

Frankly, what did they expect? We live in an age where people, especially those characterised as ‘the younger generation’ (I’m counting anyone up to the age of 34) are no longer content with simply watching media.

They also have to be an active participant: be that live streaming their Call of Duty sessions over the internet, or tweeting slightly creepy platitudes to contestants on Take Me Out.

Passive consumption is as out-dated as Ceefax – you have to be involved instead. So that’s exactly what the fans did - they got involved.

These were moments to be captured as Vines, probably to make the perpetrators viral heroes for 15 minutes. They succeeded.

The deadline day throng are no different. Did Sky think people were simply going to stand behind their reporters and obediently launch into a tuneless rendition of Blue Moon on command?

Because, what they encountered instead was an insurgency fuelled by rubber, gratuitous swearing and perhaps a few cheap pints from Wetherspoons.

It was all very English. And it’s unlikely to be an isolated one-off: as I type, plots are almost certainly being hatched for a new assault on taste and decency in the January transfer window.

Sky are probably dreading the Ann Summers Christmas sale.

Of course, being trapped in a lift with the kind of person who stands behind the camera on deadline day would be a pretty horrible experience since the majority appears to be bit strange, but it was pleasing to see Sky’s big day dissolve into anarchic farce.

Yes, it’s easy to blame the network for everything that’s wrong with English football while forgetting the innovations that have forced others, particularly the BBC, to raise their game.

But everything about deadline day really is uncomfortably crass – from the gleeful reporting of transfer fees that exceed the cost of the average nuclear power plant to the garish yellow graphics, Harry Redknapp, Jim White and that clock ticking down to the deadline.

I mean, it isn’t even a proper deadline. The myriad extensions and dispensations available to the bafflingly large number of clubs who lack the foresight to construct a squad prior to the start of the season means that even as the clock strikes zero, no-one knows what on earth has happened until the following day anyway, an unfortunate fact that renders the breathless minute-by-minute updates in the last hours entirely redundant.

Is that really worth having one of your staff humiliated live on air by a mob of 15-year-olds?

Given the general reaction on Twitter and in print media, it seems many people seem to concur that, although the transfer window has merit, deadline day itself is a novelty act whose value has long since worn off.

It’s unlikely, however, that the overwhelmingly negative response will dissuade Sky from pumping even more resources into the next transfer window, although the reporters will probably be dressed like Kate Adie in a warzone and there may well be more bouncers than fans.

Meanwhile, languishing in the Conference North means Boston United are generally untouched by transfer hysteria, but this particular deadline day did bring some glum news for Pilgrims fans.

The announcement that Ricky Miller had secured a dream loan move to Dover Athletic was particularly dismaying given that encouraging rumours filtering out from Luton Town in the last two weeks meant many Boston fans – ok, well, just me then - thought his return to York Street was a mere formality.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. It’s disappointing, because on Saturday’s evidence Boston’s attack looked a little blunt against a very well organised Stalybridge side.

It’s unfair to compare United’s replacement striker Dayle Southwell to Miller since they are two very different players, but Southwell’s more languid style would surely have benefitted greatly from having Miller’s scampering, relentless dynamism alongside him.

Thankfully, the lack of transfer windows this far down the pyramid means there are still plenty of options for Dennis Greene to explore to get the best out of Southwell, clearly a talented player who just needs a helping hand up front.

Still, it was heartening to be told after the game that I had picked ‘the worst match of the season’ to see Boston for the first time since pre-season, which proves my mere presence at Pilgrims matches is more often than not a lethal curse.

Perhaps I should head to Stoke City’s training ground in January armed with a box of tricks procured from a dodgy back alley shop and help kill off Sky’s deadline day coverage for good.