Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish believes the transfer window system has caused ‘mayhem’ in football and has called for it to be reviewed.
The Blues boss dislikes the chaos that can ensue as the deadline draws close and clubs become increasingly desperate to recruit players, often having to pay over the odds as a result.
Soon after his arrival in November, McLeish was involved in a frantic month of transfer action and while he was able to sign the likes of James McFadden, David Murphy and Mauro Zarate, he was unsuccessful in bringing in a new centre-back and midfield player, and he faces the same problem again.
The window closes on Monday and McLeish has been left in limbo over the protracted efforts to bring Celtic defender Bobo Balde to St Andrew’s and while the 32-year-old continues to delay a decision, McLeish has begun to look elsewhere, but he knows time is against him.
After injuries to club captain Damien Johnson and Tunisian Mehdi Nafti, Blues are light in the centre of midfield, and McLeish would dearly love to bring in some cover but may now have to try and fill holes using the loan system, which is the only means of recruitment after the window has shut.
“I know at Championship level we can use loans to get by but I have always felt at an elite level it has caused mayhem in terms of finance,” McLeish said.
“There are just two windows and people panic at the last minute. It is not healthy for football.
“They have been over it before, having the whole season open, but in any other trade or business it is allowed. It is something that has blown everything out of proportion financially.
“I think there is a lobby for it but there is a big lobby that is very much against it. It hurts the smaller clubs.
“When I was looking at players in January I would have needed to spend between £10-12?million, and that was just for a couple of players. As it was I think we balanced the books. The players that came in; McFadden, Zarate and Murphy were good and the players going out put us slightly in the red, but we have more or less balanced the books.
“To stay in the Premier I would have needed to spend another £10?million. We did try to get players but it was difficult getting them.
“If you are desperate to get a player in then in terms of the transfer fee it is the selling club that hold all the aces.”
McLeish is certainly not alone in his view. Former Blues boss Barry Fry has also attacked the system and called for a return to an open transfer policy.
He argues that a restraint in player sales could cripple a small club which faces financial problems but are unable to off-load one of their few assets – players.
“To me, the inability to sell one of your assets is a restraint of trade. I think it is a disgrace,” said Fry, the current director of football at Peterborough.
Fry, who was renowned for his wheeling and dealing during his tenure as Blues boss, argues that a few postponed games in succession as a consequence of poor weather can really strain the coffers at a lower division club.
“It the end it is a mad rush and leaves you very vulnerable,” Fry added. “You have got to be shrewd and you have got to be lucky.”