FAMOUS FIVE: City on transfer deadline day

As the clock ticks towards 6pm and the window “slams shut” (until the one labelled ‘loan’ opens up a bit later), we remember five big deals done by City on the various incarnations of “deadline day”…

1: Michael Turner

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The one every modern day City fan thinks of. Barely 24 hours after Turner had saved City a point at Wolves at the end of August 2009 by dint of unflinchingly putting his meat and two veg in the way of a goalbound shot in the 93rd minute, he was on his way to Sunderland in a deal to a value that was infamously ‘undisclosed’. Having heard numerous rumours of bids to the tune of £9m and more coming in from Liverpool, distraught City fans tried to take consolation in the expected size of the fee that Steve Bruce, of all people, agreed to pay for City’s finest defender of any era.

Within days, Turner had “scored” against City on debut for the Black Cats (he muted his celebration, and later the goal was given as an own goal by Kamil Zayatte) and City fans, already upset, began to fear the worst, but their fears at this stage were confined to events on the pitch. The truth of the Turner deal was unravelled in the months ahead when Adam Pearson, fresh on his return to the club, declared that among the many financial mistakes, mismanagements and misdemeanours committed by the outgoing regime, was one of true paltriness, borne out of desperation, when it came to the Turner deal. Once sell-ons for Charlton and Brentford had been correctly creamed off, it seemed City got no more than £4m for a player who was on the edge of the England squad and had been a runaway player of the season in both 2008 (promotion to the Premier League) and 2009 (survival).

Though those responsible for the deal had either departed or were in too high an ivory tower to feel the wrath of City fans, wrath there still was, especially as the general fiscal upkeep of the club had, according to Pearson’s initial declarations, rendered us close to extinction, particularly when relegation from the Premier League was confirmed at the end of the 2009/10 campaign. Turner had clearly been sold because the club was in dire straits, desperate for cash. Nobody knows if Turner would have kept us up, but everyone knew that his hastily signed replacement, the immobile and entirely hopeless Ibrahima Sonko, was going to help us down.

The sub-plot to all this was the simultaneous signing from Sunderland of Paul McShane, who had been a qualified success on loan for part of the previous season. It seemed none of his first three City managers actually had any use for him, until the man who flogged him to City turned up as manager and rebooted his career … before kicking him out this summer. McShane was, it has since been vehemently said, not a makeweight in the Turner deal but a separate signing in his own right. The 2012-2015 version of McShane alongside Turner would have truly been a sight to behold, wouldn’t it?

Turner, meanwhile, wasn’t fancied by Bruce’s successor Martin O’Neill, who sold him to Norwich, and currently they don’t want him either. He is now enduring a second loan spell in the Championship after joining Sheffield bloody Wednesday, of all teams. The heartache was all so unnecessary, for player, club and especially supporters.

2: Peter Swan

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Mick Tait. It was a name that appeared in City’s record books and on the designated Rothmans page every year for nearly a whole decade, until finally it was expunged on deadline day 1989, initially by Ian McParland, then by Peter Swan. Tait was ineffectual after City bought him for a record £150,000 in 1979 from Carlisle United and was gone within a year, but the 1980s brought skintness and austerity to City like not seen before, with the Don Robinson regime largely reliant on bargains, loanees and freebies to rebuild a club that was set for liquidation in 1982.

Some wonderful performers arrived during the mid-80s era – Richard Jobson, Garry Parker, Charlie Palmer, Bobby Doyle, Frankie Bunn, Alex Dyer and more – but inexplicably, none of them cost more than Tait despite all being evidently finer players. Only when Eddie Gray became manager in 1988 were sufficient funds to exit the bargain basement made available by Robinson, and McParland joined for £155,000 on deadline day 1989. Tait’s status as any kind of benchmark footballer was obliterated forever – although almost immediately, so was McParland’s, when Swan joined hours later for £200,000.

Swan had been on City’s radar for some time, with Brian Horton previously interested in him. When Gray then took over, his Leeds connections made the deal more viable, and Swan had already tabled half a dozen transfer requests. A central defender who was also a useful centre forward, Swan was too square-pegged for Billy Bremner’s Leeds team and had absolutely no role to play when Howard Wilkinson arrived, so now the deal was on. The excitement at his arrival was palpable; he instantly was a hit, though his preference to play in defence was soon overridden by his obvious ability in attack when he and Andy Payton, in 1989/90, started to form a decent target man/poacher partnership, despite their well-known mutual dislike personally.

He left after relegation in 1991 and bummed around a handful of lower league sides but became Tait-like in his unwavering status as City’s costliest player due to the incompetence, lawlessness and innumeracy that poisoned the club in the 1990s, rendering us skint and crap for the whole decade. It took 12 years before the club had been resuscitated enough to shell out more than they did for Swan, when Lawrie Dudfield joined. Swan is still occasionally introduced as “City’s former record signing” when working today for BBC Radio Humberside at City games.

3: Gary Lund

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Lund only made 22 appearances for City, scoring six goals, but he is unique in City’s lifetime as the only player ever to have three separate loan spells with the club. Two of these came in August and January of the 1992/3 campaign when exactly half of his eventual stats were achieved – 11 games, three goals – before he returned to parent club Notts County, with whom he was out of favour after more than 150 appearances. But in 1992/3, August and January weren’t the exclusive months for transfer dealings as they are today, as teams could buy or loan players whenever they wished from summer to spring, with the March deadline day the only one in the calendar to render such deals no longer permitted.

So when was Lund a deadline deal? In March 1995, when Terry Dolan turned to him again – two years and 60-odd more games for Notts County later – as a potless City punched ludicrously above their weight in the third tier but had an atrocious injury crisis leading up to some crucial springtime games. It had got to the stage where if you were employed as a footballer by City and you could walk and see, you were in, while Dolan refused to make tactical substitutions in games to up the odds of having enough players fit for the next one.

Lund arrived, played 11 more times, scored three more times, defended an awful lot too (his antics on his own goal-line during a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield over Easter remain much discussed by those present) and then went back to Meadow Lane, where he spent a full nine seasons in the end. There was never the prospect of signing him permanently because he was evidently way too good for City’s minuscule to non-existent transfer budget, but Dolan did well to get him each time he did. Lund was unremarkable for anything more than the unusual details attached to his spell at City, but those very circumstances mean he won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

4: Ken Knighton
The 1970/1 season is famous for quite a few things – the arrival of Terry Neill as manager, the last full season of Waggy and Chillo, the run to the FA Cup quarter finals (and the chucking away of a two-goal advantage against Stoke) and a fifth placed finish as City came as close as they had been in living memory to reaching the top tier.

But many supporters of the time will remember first the fabled “Battle of Bramall Lane” during that season, when City won a violent, savage Yorkshire derby 2-1, a meagre three days after that Cup exit. Having licked their wounds, City were ready to inflict a few, and the attitude of the players was at its seasonal peak when goals from Ken Wagstaff and Chris Simpkin earned a vital two points for a Tigers team still hoping to go up.

Debuting that day were a pair of experienced deadline day signings in defender Billy Baxter, who had won the league with Ipswich, and schemer Ken Knighton, signed from Blackburn. The latter made an instant mark on the team when, early in the game at Bramall Lane, he dealt with the Blades’ flamboyant young midfielder Tony Currie in a rather uncompromising way by kicking him high in the air. Literally kicking him, literally high in the air. Currie landed on the turf with a thud and was rarely seen in the game again, which wasn’t something you could also say about that type of spicy tackle – such was the brutality on show, the referee at one point stopped the game and gathered all the players in a circle for a lecture.

Knighton played little more than two seasons at City before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, later becoming manager of Sunderland. A good player, he made 92 first team appearances and yet somehow nothing could endear him to the City supporters more than his first.

5: Roy Carroll

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Back to the debt-ridden, hate-filled 1990s we go, and a deadline day sale that was probably as telegraphed as any City made during that era, yet somehow more hurtful because within the stench of debt, it still managed to enable some vile club figures to make a killing.

Carroll is high up in the back-up list behind Bly, Norman and Myhill when it comes to City’s finest custodians of the leather, yet it’s worth remembering that all of his time at the club was as a teenager. Unscouted as a boy in Northern Ireland, he joined the Tigers as he turned 18 and left a few months before turning 20, but his short time between the sticks made him a much-loved figure among the long-suffering support.

We’d been here before: Andy Payton, Leigh Jenkinson, Dean Windass and Alan Fettis had all been sold for good sums in the 1990s to cover crazy debts and now, in 1997 and with again more pecuniary doom afoot, it was Carroll’s turn. The Inland Revenue were sharpening their knives, with a High Court appearance due and so ….. off he finally went.

The deal was for £350,000 and Carroll joined Wigan, some years yet from completing their rise from non-league small fry to Premier League gatecrashers and FA Cup winners. That was galling enough, that a club so comparably wet behind the ears in the professional game was minted enough (and well-run enough) to snatch a truly fine young keeper from us for such a lowly sum. Furthermore, it became more frustrating when Carroll then had to wait eight months to make his debut, when during that time he could have been doing something more useful, like keeping goal for City.

But that was nothing compared to the subsequent revelation that despite the penuriousness of the club, and the red letters scribbled daily by Hector and his bowler-hatted cronies, Terry Dolan managed to trouser a 15% cut of the transfer fee. The mathematician in you will know that’s a cool £52,500, the kind of money that could fund a couple of midfielders with enough left over to locate a better right back than Simon Trevitt.

Beyond that, Carroll eventually went to Manchester United for £2m, City’s 20% cut of which wouldn’t materialise thanks to the Sheffield Stealers selling the clause back to Wigan for a meagre £80,000. Again, the maths make grim, anger-inducing reading. Carroll went on to win major honours at Old Trafford but his time at City, despite his excellence on the pitch, will be forever associated with tainted names feathering their nests or making woeful business decisions, and for a fine goalkeeper it’s such a shame that his City career mainly becomes him via the antics of others upon his exit.

Thanks to Martin Batchelor for his assistance.
2 replies
  1. gjhdurham
    gjhdurham says:

    Knighton impressed a lot…one of our best ever midfielders IMO. Pity he didn’t stay longer… However, he always seemed knackered after 60/70 minutes as he’d run around/chased so much. Not fit?
    Carroll better than Myhill IMO….for us in his short time anyway. Remember being amazed by the cash machinations that emerged at this time. Was it all legal!? Does it still go on today….?
    Lund …I don’t remember at all!
    Think Bruce ruined Turner by playing him with injuries…sound familiar. There was a bust up over training methods too in the local press in the NE… if I remember rightly…

  2. Jimmy Weekly
    Jimmy Weekly says:

    “Tait’s status as any kind of benchmark footballer was obliterated forever”. Au contraire. Mick Tait still holds the record for the highest number of league appearance by any player to include a spell at Hull City.

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