The fans of most football clubs in this country will be hoping that during the January transfer window they will be recruiting new players either to elevate them into the promotion/play -off places or to improve their chances of avoiding relegation.
There is no doubt the best transfer deals are to be done in the summer window when the pool of players available is far greater and January is more about the movement of players who are out of contract in the summer or who are out of favour with their current clubs or where clubs need transfer income to balance the books. January is very much about short term rather than long term planning.
Fans understandably just want to see players that can improve their team. Managers exert pressure on owners to get in new players. Owners feel pressure to avoid criticism from fans as either not being ambitious enough to underpin a promotion challenge or to provide help to the manager to avoid relegation.
In January 2011, we recognised this at Charlton and concentrated on building a new squad to challenge for promotion in the 2011/12 season. But when it became clear that striker Bradley Wright-Phillips was available at Plymouth Argyle in January due to their money problems we moved quickly to secure his signature for £100k, which was a real bargain. Of course, he went on to be our top goalscorer in the title-winning 2011/12 season.
The real work took place between January and May and believe me it was a monumental effort to bring in a completely new squad. It is not just about their ability, as it is important to make sure the right characters come into the club which requires a huge amount of research and discussion with third parties. What you want more than anything is to have the basis of a good squad that you can constantly improve year on year. The team that won the League One Championship went on to finish 9th in the Championship the following season. I believe that with further investment the team would have challenged for promotion to the Premier League, but then financial issues forced a complete change of direction and led to the club being sold to Roland Duchatelet for some £18million. Fans of course hope that every day in January they will wake up to new signings but for those who have relationships with player agents, it is relatively easy to find out what business a club is seeking to do. The reality is often far different to the expectation.
Fans will hope that players can be recruited to their squad to correct current inadequacies but the wholesale change needed to create a squad that can challenge for honours is better left to the summer. This is particularly important if the money available for recruitment is limited.