Picture the scene; Jim White returns to Sky Sports News for one final Deadline Day and Twitter combusts at the sight of that yellow tie.
After shaking hands with producers and colleagues on the way into the building, all picked up on camera for precious content, White strides into his studio and undergoes his rituals before live broadcasting begins.
Mid-flow, he looks up and spots Lee Hendrie, Stephen Warnock and Clinton Morrison ready to help him dissect the latest transfer dealings. A Scottish oath is muttered quietly and White’s face looks forlorn. ‘Is that it?’, he wonders, mirroring the thoughts of millions across the nation.
Just like Love Island and Big Macs, Transfer Deadline Day simply isn’t as good as it used to be. A guilty pleasure for many, including those who secretly prefer transfers to the actual football, the whole charade now feels tired and dated.
A Serbian midfielder goes on loan to Fulham? Great. Southampton sign a loanee striker to boost their promotion hopes? Seen it before. Manchester United youngster makes a temporary switch to France? What’s on the other channel?
It wasn’t so long ago that Transfer Deadline Day was appointment viewing, with scores of young men booking the day off work – although not going as far as actually admitting doing so in a public place. They did so for White.
His career pre-Deadline Day fame was amusingly eclectic; The Caledonian Mercury remembered him as a vaguely Partridgesque figure in Glasgow, “lightly joshed,” who alongside his sports reporting, co-presented at events like the 1985 Glasgow Wedding Fayre.
And of course no transfer deadline day can pass without Jim White winking down the lens at the 1985 Glasgow Wedding Fayre. pic.twitter.com/0b1HGMeihB
— Tom Peck (@tompeck) January 31, 2017
Happily, FIFA’s decision to force the Premier League to implement transfer windows helped White find his real life’s calling. As the Mercury concluded, “Jim White meeting transfer deadline day was like Andrew Ridgeley meeting George Michael.”
As with all the best creations before they jump the shark, early Deadline Day shows were both simple and brilliant. Possessing a ticker tape of companies swapping employees for moolah, White infused the most bog-standard transfer with the importance of a general election exit poll.
Commenting on the phenomenon in 2012, The Guardian brilliantly described White as ‘becoming progressively more Glaswegian as excitement mounted until he could be understood only by those born within a five-mile radius of Partick Cross’.
Intrepid reporters braved the mean streets of Cheshire and Surrey, perched outside training grounds while the general public closed in like a vice around them, as the yellow-tied one held everything together like a consummate ringmaster.
We all let out a little wee when White announced that Manchester City had signed Robinho, a move that took the player by equal surprise as those watching White flap about in the studio.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had this before on a transfer deadline night,” White said in 2013, with the energy of a small child on Christmas morning. “West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie is here, trying to force through a move a deadline day move to Queens Park Rangers.”
We were all shaking with excitement with him.
And White was the perfect man to declare that West Ham had somehow managed to lure Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to Upton Park, with Alan Pardew posing alongside them with the disbelieving air of a Tudor king that’s just discovered the internet.
The Glaswegian would become so synonymous with Transfer Deadline Day during its glory era that it was hard to take him seriously when he presented a bog-standard Sky Sports News show.
A naturally excitable character, his brand of bolshy boosterism just didn’t work when he told us that Kent had lost another wicket or that Bristol Rovers had sacked another manager.
But it was perfect for dealing with errant chairman ringing the show, possibly in the absence of anything better to do, like Everton’s Farhad Moshiri did in 2017.
After 23 years, Jim White has left Sky Sports.
Throwback to this iconic moment in 2017, when Farhad Moshiri “phoned in” on Deadline Day.
— Everton FC News 💙 (@NilSatisNews) June 11, 2021
The phenomenon of Deadline Day gradually dampened throughout the 2010s, as many viewers twigged that Sky Sports’ yellow ticker tape of doom stretched the definition of ‘Breaking News’ to its very limit.
And the explosion of social media, with its thirst for constant news and proliferation of ‘ITK’ accounts, has seen Sky Sports News become something of an anachronism. White left the station in the summer of 2021, with Fabrizio Romano having long usurped him as football’s transfer don.
But, for all his popularity, will Romano ever have a day christened after him? Millions knew August 31 and January 31 as ‘Jim White day’ which, as it came around twice a year, made it twice as exciting as Christmas.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson succumbed to the yellow-tie cult. “The last time I interviewed Fergie, the first thing he said was where’s the yellow tie?” White said in 2021.
“I had one for him in my pocket, he loved it and he found it hugely funny.”
As Deadline Day deals are discussed with po-faced seriousness today, we’re pining for Jim White and the era when watching football clubs complete admin tasks was the hottest ticket in town.
By Michael Lee