Take The Transfer Rumour Mill With A Pinch Of Salt


The final whistle of the domestic football season signals many things.

For some, it means months of boredom, being begrudgingly dragged around garden centres by the other half that you'd forgotten existed. Those who have foolishly elected to breed have to find activities for their younglings to do; trips to the beach, a ride on a donkey, apologising profusely to whoever's greenhouse they smash.

Most of us just feign an interest in Tennis or something. Come on Tim! And so on and so forth.

However for football journalists, the tedious turn of the sundial between May and August is a difficult one. The public's thirst for football tidbits, trivia and titillation doesn't dry up simply because Gary Neville isn't on telly anymore. Column inches need to be filled and websites need to be visited if their audience, and arguably their advertisers, are to be appeased.

Cast your mind back to the penultimate scene in Indiana Jones & The Raiders of the Lost Ark. That army of bad guys? It's the footballing press. That thing they're trying to open? It's the transfer rumour mill. Those horrible beasties flying around sucking the life out of everybody? That's a column in the back of a paper giving you the inside scoop on Lionel Messi having a secret meeting on the moon with Malcolm Glazer's nan.

“A source close to the player said”, “it is believed that”, “made an unofficial approach”. All terms we're going to be sick to the stomach of reading between now and when the transfer window slams shut on Jim White's fingers later in the year.

Speaking as a Newcastle United fan, I've seen official confirmation that Ronaldinho was on Tyneside for talks, that Wayne Rooney had left Goodison Park and was on his way here, and that we'd convinced Liverpool that Andy Carroll was worth £35million. Each story, I'm sure you'll agree, more ridiculous than that last.

Sometime today it's expected that Brendan Rodgers will be unveiled as the new Liverpool boss. A fact that's going to fly squarely in the face of every article that's been published stating Roberto Martinez, Rafa Benitez, Pep Guardiola, Andre Villas-Boas, Ian Rush, Mark Lawrenson, Kelly Brook, Dr Dre, or Rick Astley were nailed on for the job.

Nobody saw that coming. Nobody. Especially after he was “reported to have turned down an approach” two weeks ago. As surprising appointments go, it's up there with walking into the dentists and finding Lennon, Elvis, and that lad from the Bee Gees sorting you some mouthwash.

Even Eden Hazard, the juiciest journalistic morsel of the summer, was going to almost every single title-chasing side in Europe depending on which “insider exclusive” you read this month. In the end though, without a microphone, camera, or member of the press in sight, he broke the story himself on Twitter. How thoroughly inconsiderate of him.

Heartbroken at the news they'd missed out on the lad, fans of Manchester's United and City were quickly whipped up into a storm as news broke of a bidding war between them for Papiss Cisse. Within minutes the internet had gone from a child watching a slowly turning house fan, to that spin cycle on the washing machine that makes husbands up and down the country feel wholly inadequate.

As far as newspaper editors are concerned, a vicious frenzy that'll direct attention to his publication is the absolute cat's tits, and nothing seems to wind people up more than news about their football club.

In the interests of fairness, it's worth pointing out that the vast majority of things that make it to print are put there in good faith. Chances are a journalist genuinely will have had a tip from someone, but just because a player, an agent, or a club official wants someone to think a move might be happening, doesn't mean it is.

I mean, they might have priced some apples in the shop, but that doesn't mean they'll be off their tits on Strongbow after the Euros.