Neil Warnock: The January transfer window is a nightmare for clubs at both ends of the table so getting business done early is essential
The best deal may turn out to be one of the most low-profile: Kevin Phillips to Leicester
Eighteen days gone, 13 to go, and you can bet every manager is counting them down. The January transfer window is a nightmare for managers and while it has been quiet so far this is just the lull before the storm. With so much at stake at both ends of the table every club will be looking to strengthen and you can bet there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes as managers try to set deals up. But it is one thing identifying players you want and need, getting them over the line is another thing entirely, especially in January when few good players are available.
Which is why Steve Bruce will be patting himself and his chairman on the back after wrapping up the signings of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long with two weeks to spare. When you are signing players in January you need ones who will have an instant impact, maybe a leader at the back if you are conceding goals, or some guile in midfield, or pace or power up front. The great thing for Steve is that both players have plenty of Premier League experience, so should settle immediately.
Getting them in is a real statement of intent. Assem Allam has come in for some stick over the name change he wants to impose at Hull but fans can't fault his financial backing. They'd be nowhere without it and it's not like Vincent Tan at Cardiff, coming in from another continent, Allam has lived on Humberside for years and wants to put something back.
It'll be interesting to see how many owners match him. Quite a few spent heavily in the summer and will be reluctant to do so again, but that is what it might take to stay up and have a place at the table for the even bigger rewards on offer next year. David McNally, Norwich City's chief executive even said: "I would prefer death rather than relegation." That is a bit extreme. I've been relegated and it is terrible thing, it lives with you for months, but it is not as bad as dying.
The teams at the top will also be looking to add, though for them there are even fewer players around who could make a difference. Chelsea have already bought and while paying £21m for someone they sold for £3m only a few years ago might make people smile, that won't bother Jose Mourinho as he didn't sell Nemanja Matic – and credit to the owner for supporting him. Manchester United might find it a bit harder to get Paul Pogba back. He has improved so much since Sir Alex let him go I bet they wish they had given him the 20 grand a week, or something like that, he wanted. He'd walk into United's team now.
I can't see Manchester City signing anyone unless Joleon Lescott leaves and they need more cover at centre-half. They certainly don't need players for any other position. It is a difficult decision for Lescott. He won't want to leave a trophy-chasing team for a relegation battle, but he needs games if he is to go to the World Cup.
There are one or two in that position, which might help managers at the bottom bring in players because I know from experience it is incredibly difficult to get players if you are near the relegation zone.
One of the more interesting signings is Grant Holt joining Aston Villa. I can understand why Paul Lambert wants him. He has good memories of Holt playing for him at Norwich and he brings experience to the side. It is all right saying "go with youth" but you need experience and, since there is obviously not a lot of money around at Villa, Holt is a good option. He never had much pace so his age is less of a factor, he's always been a handful for defenders. Villa need someone who can hold the ball up to bring people into play and there's not many better at that than Holt. It is also a great move for him. He was obviously not required at Wigan, but now he's back in the Premier League.
The best deal of the window may turn out to be one of the most low-profile. Kevin Phillips is a super signing for Nigel Pearson. It is also a great chance for Kevin to finish his career on a high. He might only play 20-minute cameos, but trust me, there is no one better to finish chances and Leicester have the pace and power up front to make sure Kevin gets a couple of opportunities each time he comes on. It is not just the goals, you can't put a price on what he will bring to the dressing room. He's seen it all, done it all, and is a smashing lad with a great attitude to training. If he makes the difference that ensures Leicester get automatic promotion he'll be a fabulous signing, and he cost nothing.
It was a great win against Derby for Nigel last week but he'll be wary as, after Leeds' drubbing at Sheffield Wednesday last week, he will be expecting a backlash at Elland Road.
It is a match they'll be following closely at Loftus Road, where I was hoping to be for QPR v Huddersfield. Instead I'm in Devon, having had some minor surgery. I'm hoping it is OK for my BT Sport show on Monday. I also had an injection for pneumonia. I had a letter saying I should have it done now I'm 65. Things like that do make you feel your age. Amy also needed a jab so we made a right pair, because while William and Sharon are fine with needles we both have to look away or we'll scream.
It would have been nice to see how two of my old clubs are getting on. Huddersfield are really well run now with Dean Hoyle as chairman and Mark Robins manager and they will present a stiff test for Harry Redknapp. I still believe he will take Rangers back to the Promised Land, but Harry must be thinking, "If only Burnley would lose a few games".
Pochettino needs to stay at Southampton for his own reputation
Whatever you think about Nicola Cortese – and after negotiating for players with him I can tell you he's not too bothered about making friends (in fact, he probably counts all his on one hand) – he has done a fantastic job at Southampton. Obviously, Mauricio Pochettino was brought in as manager by Cortese, but I wasn't surprised when he said he would stay despite the chairman leaving. I know Pochettino said eight months ago he would leave if Cortese did, but managers have to say all sorts of things some times.
Pochettino needs to stay now for his own reputation, not least to show he can get Saints firing again after a difficult run. You can also see he's enjoying it and when you are, you don't want to leave a club. But who's to say Cortese won't turn up at another club in Europe and that Pochettino will join him there?
I don't expect the players to be affected by the change. Most players are mainly concerned about themselves, so the ones in the team will be happy and the ones out of the team will be unhappy. That's usually the case at every club, whoever is chairman.
Keeping schtum over Puncheon
As many of you will be aware, comments I made on my talkSPORT programme on Monday about Jason Puncheon's penalty at White Hart Lane brought an unexpected response on Twitter from my former QPR player. While I was extremely disappointed, there is not much I can say about the matter at present, as it is in the hands of my legal people.
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