It used to be that when a football club signed a player, the first you knew of it would be when a photograph appeared in a newspaper. The new acquisition would be seen sat down, behind a desk, putting pen to paper and with a smiling manager stood behind, with a hand on the shoulder of the new player.
As the decades passed, we would witness a new signing holding a scarf aloft. Or wearing the shirt of his new club.
In the 1980’s, when I was a sports researcher at Yorkshire Television, I often found myself driving new signings from Elland Road to the YTV studios where, as far as the viewers were concerned, the player signed on the dotted line, live on TV. The manager and player would then be interviewed and the usual cliches would be spouted.
I recall the day in 1981 when the winger Peter Barnes actually signed for Leeds United in the back seat of my Vauxhall Cavalier, with then manager Allan Clarke sat next to him. Clarke was making sure that the new club record signing was on the books before they went on television and pretended to complete the move in front of the cameras. Leeds paid £750.000 plus £180.000 in what were called “tariffs.” It was a transfer that did not work out. Leeds were relegated to Division Two and Barnes moved on to play football in Spain.
In recent years the manner in which a football club announces the arrival of a new signing became ever more elaborate. In the ill fated case of Alexis Sanchez signing for Manchester United back in 2018, things turned bizarre. Sanchez was on the pitch playing a piano!
Now, ahead of the new Premier League season, Manchester City unveiled just three of their new signings. The star turn is Erling Haaland. The second member of his family to play for the club. In front of a packed crowd and on a hot day in Manchester, Haaland spoke of his excitement at joining the fifth club of his career: “It’s a different level, how they play, and that’s what I want to be part of. In the end I just had the feeling in my stomach: the way they play, everything,” he said. “I had the feeling for City.”
While the supporters had come to see him, they also welcomed Julian Alvarez and Stefan Ortega to the club. The very long queue of fans wanting to be there, to see the trio of new players in the flesh, had begun early in the day. One suspects that those fans would have been at the Etihad Stadium whatever the weather.
The image of football has changed considerably since my bedroom wall displayed photos of my first football hero, Colin Bell. One of the greatest players to wear the Manchester City shirt, his arrival at Maine Road was much more low key than what fans witnessed last weekend. Perhaps Haaland can become as much of a legend at City as Colin ‘Nijinsky’ Bell. Although he’ll have to go some and stay a long time to achieve that status.
The coming season surely has to be the best chance for Manchester City to win the Champions League under Pep Guardiola. Providing Haaland stays fit, his goals should be enough to make the difference between being knocked out of the competition in the latter stages, and winning the Champions League. They will be be my pre-season tip to do precisely that.
Very soon the new EFL football season begins, followed swiftly by the Premier League season in which Man City will defend their title. I will, as ever, be offering football betting tips to subscribers. Members of VG Tips will receive analysis, previews and tips for domestic action in the English and Scottish leagues. Week in, week out. Not forgetting betting tips for the Champions League games and, of course, the winter World Cup that takes place in November and December. First up will be my season long predictions, before a ball has been kicked. I look for the best season long bets that, we hope, will pay out come next May.
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