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The culture of telling transfer stories has gone out of the window

AT last it can be told.

The reason Elvis landed in Prestwick Airport in March 1960? The singer was hoping to complement a part in the Gaiety panto with a deal as Ayr United's new centre-forward.

The move fell through over Elvis's personal demands that included squirrel-flavoured Bovril, the home dressing room to be renamed the Jungle Room and the team to play in blue suede shoes.

The Presley story is just one of the marvellous tales that the transfer market once produced. These were the days when every day was transfer story day. Now the fun is restricted to the transfer windows and, frankly, the hearts of the hacks are just not in it any more.

Once both Celtic and Rangers could attract players from the top flight in England and other clubs could spend a bit of dosh on an exotic foreigner or promising player in an English lower league. Once, too, there was a culture where the press men would throw names into the air and when they fell on to a map would declare this was the precise destination of said player.

These, ahem, informed speculations were called flyers. As the season approached, the tabloids needed air traffic control to keep these flyers in some sort of formation. They became so bizarre that some might even have thought many of them had been made up.

But there was also a consistency to the genre. Clubs were always set to swoop, sources close to the players always talked about the target always dreaming of playing for Celtic/Rangers when he was growing up in Towcester, and there was always a wrangle over the fee.

If two clubs were involved in trying to sign a player, there was legal requirement to couch it as A Bidding War. This conflict was never for the whole player, it was a battle for the "player's signature".

Once, too, the targets signed on the dotted line and were basically told what they would receive. Usually about a tenner more than they were on at their old club.

But as the years progressed the phrase "personal terms" entered the lexicon. These, of course, were not personal terms, but financial terms. They stipulated what a player should get "netto", that is after all that pesky tax and national insurance was paid by their employer. They would also receive a "loyalty bonus", but only when they were leaving. And they would be guaranteed so much money over a long-term contract that they did not have to play to retire in comfort. Most earned more on the bench than a squad of High Court judges.

But the best flyers were those that came round every year, like migrating birds. Who can forget the Darren Huckerby for Celtic classic? Or the Jardel for Ibrox? Or Alan Smith for Rangers and Celtic, presumably on an alternating shift system.

My personal favourite was when I heard on the grapevine (on later reflection a strange voice in my head) that a Polish striker was heading for Celtic. I wrote this up and then had the joy of dismissing this nonsense the next day. Thus it was the story that kept on giving.

Now, though, the transfer market in Scotland is as exciting as the Vicar of Dibley on pause. There is no money about for most clubs and Rangers and Hearts cannot buy anyone until their transfer embargoes end. Thus we hacks are forced to write stories about Rangers swooping for stars in September. This is hardly dramatic or even imminent. It is the sort of "swoop" performed by someone who has just dropped his pension book under his zimmer.

Celtic will sign a few players, indeed they have just won a bidding war for Rami Gershon, the Israeli defender and, if I'm not mistaken, writer, potentially controversially given his new club, of Rhapsody in Blue.

But we Scottish hacks can only look on in envy as our colleagues south of the Border push the Lamps Out (Lampard for anywhere on Planet Earth), Falcao Flies In (Atletico Madrid striker stays in house) or Ronaldo for United (Manchester United trade Old Trafford for Cristiano).

Meanwhile, the sports editor wants a transfer story. Has anyone a mobile number for Huckerby? Or Elvis?

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Finance

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