The 35th deadline day since the current transfer window system was introduced is drawing to a close at Villa Park and Bodymoor Heath.
Some deadlines have passed without any arrivals, while on other last days there has been a flurry of incoming activity.
The old way of allowing signings during the season up until March 31 was scrapped in the summer of 2002.
It was axed amidst concerns that it restricted freedom of movement and undermined the integrity of competitions if title-chasing clubs could buy a player to clinch the Championship in the final months. (They had a point, Tony Cascarino’s arrival at Villa in mid-March 1990, effectively handed Liverpool the old Division One crown).
But the transfer window is still here – even if club sporting director Johan Lange looks very unlikely to complete any more deals – and has been for 15 years now, so let’s reflect on some of Villa’s eleventh hour deals.
After failing to make a deadline day signing in the first five windows, Villa will have wished they had closed the door on their first last-gasp addition.
Eric Djemba-Djemba – so bad they named him twice – was rushed in for £1.35 million on January 31 2005, when Sir Alex Ferguson saw David O’Leary coming.
Two and a half seasons later, the Villa Park faithful saw the Cameroon midfielder going after just four starts and seven substitute appearances.
All he left Villa with, after going bankrupt, was a bill for unpaid for merchandise obtained from the club shop.
Fortunately, David O’Leary’s next deadline day dabble in August 2005 proved more successful as he loaned James Milner from Newcastle for a season.
The Yorkshire terrier impressed with his industriousness on the wing.
Milner might have made it a deadline day double when he arrived the following summer intent on signing a last ditch deal with new boss Martin O’Neill, only for the Magpies to pull out of a £4 million deal, and eventually sell him to Villa for three times as much two years later.
It was O’Neill who converted Milner into a central midfielder before he was flogged to Manchester City for £18 million and makeweight Stephen Ireland in 2010.
SHAUN OF THE DEADLINE
It was joked that Martin O’Neill loved last gasp deals so much that the No.31 adorning his tracksuit symbolised his favourite dates in January and August.
But even by O’Neill’s standards he left it late with the capture of Shaun Maloney in January 2007. The Celtic playmaker was snapped up for £1 million just an hour an a half before the deadline.
The deal might have gone through 90 minutes sooner, had Villa not being losing 3-1 at Newcastle earlier that night.
Maloney showed glimpses of his ability but got homesick for Glasgow and a return to Celtic.
MUST HAVE A SIGNING
Moustapha Salifou – even the mere mention of his name brings a wry smile to the faces of the claret and blue faithful.
Nobody had heard of him when O’Neill plucked him from obscurity with Swiss club FC Wil just before Jim White spontaneously combusted on Sky Sports News in August 2007.
By the time he returned to obscurity, the midfielder nicknamed the Togolese Zinedine Zidane was better known for surviving a horrific gun attack on international duty and earning the terrace chant ‘Salifou-Bulletproof’ than he was for seven starts and six substitute cameos.
Curtis Davies also arrived on loan the same day, but suggesting O’Neill as a presenter of the Late Late Show is perhaps a little harsh.
He didn’t make a single deadline day signing from January 2008 to January 2009, although he did miss out on signing Brad Guzan on January 31 2008 because of work permit complications.
“We had Collins and Dunne, we had a season in the sun, but the joy didn’t last because opponents ran too fast.” That’s what Villa fans might have chanted to sum up the Villa careers of James Collins and Richard Dunne.
The pair arrived on the same day on August 31 2009 – although the latter wasn’t a Dunne deal until the following day after paperwork problems – and formed a formidable partnership.
A clean sheet win at Blues on their debut got the ball rolling and they helped Villa to the League Cup final, FA Cup semi final and sixth in the Premier League in their first year.
After that they became better known for lock ins than shutouts as their early dominance faded and they were embroiled in off the field indiscretions.
Ok, that’s not fair, but Michael Bradley’s underwhelming arrival on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach, undermined an exciting transfer window in which Gerard Houllier had smashed the record signing with the £24 million capture of Darren Bent and recruited Kyle Walker on loan.
US international Bradley barely played and was part of the controversial weakened side FA Cup exit at Manchester City. He went on to revive his career back in Major League Soccer.
In other news, Stephen Ireland was loaned to Newcastle.
‘Buy one get one free’ was not quite the deal when Alex McLeish launched a double deadline day raid on White Hart Lane on August 31 2011. In fact Villa paid Tottenham over £3 million for Alan Hutton and coughed up a significant sum to take Jermain Jenas on loan too.
There was a time when Hutton played more times for Scotland than Villa after falling out of favour, but he managed to battle his way back to first team prominence.
As for Jenas, he’s probably played more times for Scotland than he did for Villa too, despite being an England international.
He was injured on his first start in claret and blue, but Villa had to pay his wages for the entire season.
There can be no argument whatsoever that Christian Benteke has proved to be Villa’s best late deal in the past 15 years.
It dragged on into the night, but Benteke was worth the £7 million fee and since then has earned seven million superlatives and a £32.5 million move to Crystal Palace, via Merseyside. But we don’t like to talk about him any more…
Ashley Westwood too was a decent bit of business, arriving from Crewe on deadline day in August 2012 and then departing for Burnley on deadline day in January 31.
Jordan Bowery never convinced the Villa Park fanbase.
As for deadline day in January 2012, Yacouba Sylla was initially popular because his name rhymed with Villa, after that he was scarier than Thriller.
Nothing was gained in the nothing-to-lose loan of Simon Dawkins.
Libor Kozak has now gone, joining David Platt’s old club Bari, but four summers ago the bouncing Czech was in the arrivals lounge rather than departures. He signed from Lazio and his strike rate was decent before he broke his leg in training and was out for ages.
In January 2014 Villa finally abandoned their month long pursuit of Norwich playmaker Wes Hoolahan on the last day of the window.
In August 2014, Villa were granted a deadline extension to bring in Tom Cleverley.
Finally signing the Manchester United midfielder on a season long loan the day after the window closed following the collapse of a permanent deal.
LES SAID THE BETTER
At the time we had high hopes for him.
He was a boyhood Villa fan and was coming off the back of a player-of-the-season winning year at rivals West Bromwich Albion.
What was not to like?
Erm. It didn’t end well, as Lescott was part of Villa’s dreadful relegation campaign of 2015-16, compounding the Villa Park faithful’s misery with some Twitter nonsense.
He departed for a brief stint in Greece, before suffering his second successive relegation with Sunderland.
Under the radar that same day, came the arrival of young goalkeeper Matija Sarkic, who has been on the first team bench a couple of times but is still awaiting his debut.
THE BEES KNEES
January 2017 was a busy one – not least because Villa had a Championship game to play in amongst their wheeling and dealing.
Scott Hogan was signed for 12 million quid from Brentford on the same day that Steve Bruce’s team were losing 3-0 to erm… Brentford.
His time at Villa since then has been hit and miss with injuries knocking him out of his goalscoring stride before he has really got into it.
Also in this year’s winter window, came Neil Taylor in a swap deal for Jordan Ayew, while Bury rookie Jacob Bedau was snapped up as ‘one for the future’.
TAMMY GRABB’UN GOALS
As Villa found themselves with a shortage of in form strikers half way through their second Championship campaign in 2017/18, boss Steve Bruce wanted to remove the burden from Keinan Davis’ young shoulders.
Lewis Grabban, who had scored 12 goals in 19 appearances for Sunderland in the first half of the 2017/18 campaign was convinced to swap Sunderland’s sinking ship for Tony Xia’s Villa Vessel and it was full speed ahead to promotion.
Though, after falling to eventual play-off final defeat at the hands of Fulham, Villa were made to lick their wounds and gather momentum the following season for another play-off campaign. This time, their efforts would be rewarded under the Wembley arch, as Tammy Abraham, a deadline day summer signing in the summer of 2018, ran riot during the 2018/19 season.
The on loan Chelsea man scored 25 goals in 37 league appearances, under Bruce and, later that season, Dean Smith.
LOAN MARKET PERSONIFIED
When Aston Villa headed into the final days of the 2019 January transfer window, all hope of a promotion charge under Smith was dashed with a string of disappointing results so nearly ending their play-off hopes. Tyrone Mings was by and large viewed a stopgap for a more permanent fixture to settle into Smith’s squad the following year.
It turned out that Mings would be that very colossus in the middle of Villa’s defence, but not in the Championship, oh no, in the Premier League. Mings went on to earn a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad soon after achieving promotion to the top-flight with Villa, before becoming a captain of Aston Villa for the start of the 2012/22 campaign.
Joining Mings as another loan signing on Thursday, January 31, 2019 was Tom Carroll, even if his Swansea midfield team-mate Leroy Fer was the name on everybody’s lips as the clock rolled over the 11pm deadline two January’ windows ago.
Carroll was unfortunate through a hip injury that his Villa career failed to get going after making only two appearances for the club, with 35 minutes in claret and blue to show for it.
BORJA EYES OUT
Borja Baston was not a success at Aston Villa by any stretch of the imagination. He couldn’t even beat Carroll’s 35 minute Villa career as he might well have broken a record of only 16 minutes of claret and blue fame.
He was drafted in as a panic buy to say the very least and quite frankly, it was never going to work out for the Spanish forward who joined Villa after leaving Swansea City in the Championship during the season which Villa were scrapping for every point with relegation a very real prospect when January rolled around back last year.
2019/20 was a season where Villa couldn’t keep the ball out at one end and struggled put it in at the other, and Baston didn’t help in either respect. After coming on as a substitute at Villa Park for the visit of Tottenham, Baston lost out on a header and before Villa knew it, Heung-min Son made the most of Bjorn Engel’s mistake and Villa were 3-2 down with the last kick-off the game.
Without fans returning to stadiums for another 18 long months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Baston’s nine-minute Villa Park cameo sat fresh in the minds of Villa fans for quite some time.
DEADLINE DAY SIGNINGS
Summer 2002: None
January 2003: None
Summer 2003: None
January 2004: None
Summer 2004: None
January 2005: Eric Djemba-Djemba (Manchester United)
Summer 2005: James Milner (Newcastle – loan), Eric Bakke (Leeds – loan)
January 2006: None
Summer 2006: None
January 2007: Shaun Maloney (Celtic)
Summer 2007: Moustapha Salifou (FC Wil), Curtis Davies (loan from West Brom)
January 2008: None
Summer 2008: None
January 2009: None
Summer 2009: James Collins (West Ham), Richard Dunne (Manchester City)
January 2010: None
Summer 2010: None
January 2011: Michael Bradley (loan from Borussia Moenchengladbach)
Summer 2011: Alan Hutton (Tottenham), Jermain Jenas (Tottenham – loan)
January 2012: None
Summer 2012: Christian Benteke (Genk), Ashley Westwood (Crewe), Jordan Bowery (Chesterfield)
January 2013: Yacouba Sylla (Clermont Foot), Simon Dawkins (Tottenham – loan)
Summer 2013: Libor Kozak (Lazio)
January 2014: None
Summer 2014: Cleverley (loan, Manchester United) went through following day
January 2015: None
Summer 2015: Lescott (WBA), Matija Sarkic (Anderlecht)
January 2016: None
Summer 2016: Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough)
January 2017: Scott Hogan (Brentford), Neil Taylor, Jacob Bedeau (Bury)
Summer 2017: None
January 2018: Lewis Grabban (loan – Bournemouth)
Summer 2018: Tammy Abraham (loan – Chelsea)
January 2019: Tyrone Mings (loan – Bournemouth), Tom Carroll (loan – Swansea City)
Summer 2019: None
January 2020: Borja Baston (Swansea City)
Summer 2020: None
January 2021: None
Summer 2021: None (so far…)
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