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Or not as the case may be.

For all I know, there may never have been a time where top flight managers were left alone for a couple of months to hunt down and court their chosen signings for the coming season but I’m certain that the Latics managers of my youth didn’t have to cope with the media circus and rumour-mongering that is accompanying every move that Hutchings makes. Ok, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean, imagine what it must be like for Jose Mourinho.

It’s easy to blame the media for this situation but take a quick trawl around the fan-sites and message boards will tell you different. Watch how quickly ‘we should sign x’ becomes ‘we’ve bid £4m for x’. I wouldn’t like to say how often this type of story ends up in the press, but I’ve seen it happen, after all you can’t expect the nationals to have people on the ground everywhere, so why not let the fans do your groundwork?

Of course the papers encourage this, what started with the 3AM girls asking for people to ring in if they’d seen a misbehaving celebrity has now spread to the back pages. ‘My mate’s sister is Jermain Defoe’s hair dresser and he says that he wants to go to Italy this summer’. It’s a self feeding mess and ultimately comes down to shifting units.

A case in point is the fuss over Latics’ interest in Jason Koumas. It’s not likely to happen, but the fans have got excited about it, so the press feed them tales of bids, rejections and increases. Contrast that with the Phil Jagielka situation, the fans wrote this off early so it’s been fairly quite, even though he’s closer to what we need and more likely to sign. One story carries more interest so it gets more column inches, it’s one of the basic rules of tabloid journalism, ‘sod the stories, just print what they want to read’, after all they’re a popularity contest, not an information service.

Clubs, players and agents use all this to their advantage. A small story can explode with the right word in the right ear and if you want to test a particular piece of water then what better way to do it than hiding behind a bit of gossip that could have come from anywhere.

So, whilst you can’t trust the rumours to be true, you can use them as a barometer for the transfer market. If a club is constantly linked with strikers, there’s a fair chance that they need one, even if they’re not after one. If a player is being linked with loads of clubs then he’s probably looking for a way out, then again it could just be his club looking to protect their assets by creating a false bidding war.

The true test of a rumour is how long it hangs about for, without changing. Baines has been linked with a move for some time, but the interested clubs are getting smaller, there may have been some truth in Newcastle’s interest, but Villa? Another good example of this is Lee McCulloch, a certainty to be off to Rangers in May, but it’s all gone quiet at the back, he may still leave, but it seems that his ticket to Glasgow will in to waste. Camara is another, he (or his agents) might be after a move but the constant changes to story suggest that no one is that interested.

Whilst the tittle-tattle of the summer months may provide a methadone replacement for the real stuff to come, it’s important to remember that it is just that. Take it too seriously and you could end up stressed about the signings we’ve missed out on. Take it as it comes and remember that silence can be the best sign. Most of all keep the following in mind; you should only believe a transfer rumour when the player is stood in the stand, next to the manager, with a football shirt on.

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