Coming to a football club near you - the most boring event of the season: the January transfer window.

It generates more rumour, column inches and airtime than anything else from August to May - and yet there's very little of substance.

'On Your Marks' was a tabloid headline yesterday and what followed was the usual breathless speculation over what Fergie, Rafa and company are going to do over this next month.

The report estimated that the record amount of £70 million in last January's market was set to be smashed. Given that inflationary transfer fees are a fact of modern footballing life and that 70 million quid is chickenfeed - enough for only three top players - I would have thought it a paltry sum for a month's dealings by all the Premier League clubs.

Since the system began in 2003, the number of significant deals that changed a club's season have been few. Steve Bruce worked the oracle for Birmingham City in 2003 - bagging Christophe Dugarry, Matt Upson and Stephen Clemence - while Harry Redknapp saved Portsmouth from relegation in 2006 by signing Pedro Mendes, Sean Davis and Noe Pamarot from Tottenham.

I can't think of many more that had a radical impact straight away. Some deals, admittedly have a long-term beneficial effect, like Ashley Young joining Aston Villa from Watford last year. That piece of business looks more impressive as the months slip by.

Manchester United picked up Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra two Januarys ago and initially they appeared bum buys. But now they look tremendous captures as the United defence seems watertight with these two on board.

But United have the luxury of being able to bed in promising young players before giving them prolonged exposure, just as Liverpool used to do in their palmy days, like allowing Ian Rush a season in the reserves after his transfer from Chester City.

But, reflecting the overheated nature of the Premier League, the managers, supporters and the media don't seem capable of looking at the bigger picture. Results are expected to pick up as soon as money is thrown at a player who can't be all that special - otherwise his current club wouldn't be looking to move him on.

There are simply not enough outstanding players available to justify all this hype about the January window. Who deserves such feverish speculation today? Nicolas Anelka, certainly. Stephen Hunt at Reading? Promising, but hardly the finished product. Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe? England internationals but flawed. Dimitar Berbatov is a fine striker, but had only scored four times in the Premier League this season before getting four last Saturday.

The possible targets hardly constitute a modern Hall of Fame and yet we all keep banging on about this cursed window. Since arriving at Birmingham City a month ago, Alex McLeish is quizzed about his aims and aspirations in January at every press conference. As if he would be naïve enough to announce targets and negotiate in public.

In common with most managers in the Premier League, Martin O'Neill would love to augment his squad. Managers never have enough players do they? Undoubtedly, Villa need strengthening in their smallish squad, but O'Neill is canny enough to know that Randy Lerner's largesse will up the negotiating ante with the selling club. And O'Neill is notoriously punctilious when it comes to examining the player's character as well as ability. He often passes on the option and who can blame him?

So don't expect world-shattering developments at St Andrew's and Villa Park over this next month. The real business is done in the summer. More time, more money available. In January, the buying clubs are simply running to stand still, terrified of either missing out on European qualification or getting relegated.

If the January window was truly going to work, there should be a cap on deals done by the clubs at the top of the table, with those at the bottom being able to buy more players. Why should the wealthiest always be allowed to prosper?

Or we could always dispense with the whole concept. Revert to the free-for-all of yesteryear, where scouting expertise, patience and clever whispers in the relevant player's ear were more valued than the post-Christmas importuning of a ruthless agent and a desperate manager.

Like so much of the Premier League, the January window is all fur coat and no knickers.

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