05 September, 2007

Jay Jay Okocha to Hull?????

In light of Hull City's recent signing sensation, we at STT have decided to look back and remember some of those unbelievable transfers of yester-year that make football so interesting. As an added bonus, we’ve also covered a couple of even more sensational near-signings that could have changed the course of footballing history as we know it...

1. George Best to Dunstable Town FC 1974

Straight off the back of playing 466 games for Man Utd and scoring 178 goals, George Best made a somewhat controversial move to sleeping giants Dunstable Town in 1974. As if winning the League twice, the UEFA Cup once, and being named European Footballer of the Year by the age of 27 wasn’t enough, Best felt the need to conquer the mighty Southern League Division One. His charitable spirit even stretched as far as buying new goal nets for the club at £25 a piece. After only 3 appearances however, he sensationally quit the club, leaving Dunstable’s wild culture of strong booze, fast cars and easy women behind him for ever.

2. Juninho to Middlesbrough 1995

At age 22 Juninho was tipped as one of the hottest young players in the world, and was being chased by several of the continent’s wealthiest clubs. He could have played in any league and lived the life in any of the cultural and partying hotspots of Europe. Instead he chose newly promoted Middlesbrough. In fact he even settled down with his parents in a small North Yorkshire town called Ingleby Barwick, living the domestic dream and occasionally even playing street football with local hoodrats. Having left Middlesbrough in 1997 after they were relegated, TLF (smog for “The Little Fella”) subsequently played at Athletico Madrid, before returning to the Teesiders in 2000 and then 2002. Clearly the women of Madrid came a poor second to the quality of your average Middlesbrough lass.

3. Sócrates to Garforth Town A.F.C 2004

Announcing the player's first club appearance, the man on tannoy said in a dispassionate deadpan: "Substitution for Garforth Town, ladies and gentlemen. Replacing number two, Matt Higginbottom, is number six, Socrates."
Surely the most unlikely football transfer of all time? Garforth Town stunned their rivals in the Northern Counties East League by signing the former Brazil captain and South American Footballer of the Year. On a one month player-coach contract, Sócrates (aged a spritely 50 at the time) played just once and nearly scored with a 30 yard wonder strike. This only appearance was however a real glamour home tie against Tadcaster Albion, in front of 1300 confused Yorkshiremen. For atmosphere it must have knocked spots off 200,000 at the Macarana in Rio.

4. Jamie Stevenson to Real Mallorca 2003

You may never have heard of Scottish midfielder Jamie Stevenson but that is hardly surprising. Eighteen year old Stevenson had just signed for Alloa Athletic, playing part time while still working as a mechanic but he was spotted during a summer holiday kickabout in the Costa Del Blanes, and offered a trial with the La Liga side. Of the trial, the Scot commented, “I remember arriving at the training ground and seeing the first-team players drive up in their Ferraris and thinking 'what is an 18-year-old guy fae Alloa, who drives a poxy Astra, doing here?’” Surprisingly Stevenson actually made a really good impression, scoring 7 goals in three under 18 appearances. He stayed at Mallorca for a year, but called time on his fiesta abroad because he missed Scotland. Mallorca wanted to keep him and allowed him to return only on the condition he went back to Alloa. He is now playing at Greenock Morton. It is this kind of rags to riches to rags tale that keeps STT’s faith in football still alive.

Near Signings

1. Ronaldinho to St Mirren. 2001

Bizarre but true. In January 2001, a 21 year old Ronaldinho, who would later be crowned the best player in the world, was frozen out at his Brazilian club Gremio after agreeing to move to PSG in the summer. Relegation-threatened SPL side St Mirren made an approach to take him on loan in January for the rest of the season, which was accepted Gremio, who had no interest in keeping a player with no motivation to play for them anymore, and PSG, who were keen for him to experience a more physical European league before his transfer.

Ronaldinho himself agreed terms with St Mirren and agreed to the move, and it seemed all set to go ahead until it was revealed that he was under investigation in Brazil for a passport scam, and was not granted a work permit by the home office to play in Britain. Probably for the best, I can’t really imagine Ronaldinho out on the tiles in Paisley.

2. Carsten Jancker to Luton Town 1996

The four time Bundesliga winner and German International striker was actually rejected by Luton Town in 1996 after a week trial and only one game. Apparently the 6ft 5 centre forward couldn’t hack it at Kenilworth Lane and was told he wasn’t good enough for the English Third Division. Of the event, Jancker said, “I really wanted to make it in England where the football is so passionate, but Luton gave me only one game before saying goodbye - and they weren’t even in the Premiership.” Instead Jancker joined Bayern Munich where he went on to make 148 appearances and scored 42 goals in six seasons. I bet he still goes to sleep thinking ‘If only Luton had signed me…’

Any more shocking signings or ridiculous transfer rumours? Send STT your suggestions and we shall hopefully run a follow-up piece in the near future. If anyone can beat Ronaldinho almost going to St Mirren though, they win a prize. An edible prize. As ever - sniffingtt@hotmail.com