Like a polar bear relying on its fat deposits during a long frozen winter, football fans survive the summer by suckling on a teat of rumour. We are all naturally attracted to each whiff of a new signing, but just how accurate is it?
Well, I’ve decided to find out. Since the last day of the season up until last night, I’ve kept a note of every Twitter reference to a player rumoured or real, to be leaving or joining the club. For a rumour to be accurate, it must surface more than 24 hours before a signing is announced.
The reason for the 24-hour rule is to test truly how 'in the know' people are; lots of signings are done the day before they're announced by which point the press will know, photos will have been taken and so on. It pretty much becomes common knowledge rather than a leak from an insider.
First, let’s look at current Oxford players who were rumoured to be leaving. First, there’s the ‘big two’; Callum O'Dowda was linked with Preston, Derby, Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday, while Kemar Roofe was linked with Ipswich, Cardiff, Leeds and Charlton. They were both been linked with Aston Villa, Wigan and Sheffield United. In total, fourteen rumours, two signings.
In addition, John Lundstram was linked with Brentford and Chris Maguire with Bradford. Danny Hylton’s move to Luton was completely out of the blue. Three rumours, no facts. Darn it.
We were linked with John Akinde (Barnet), Caolan Lavery (Sheffield Wednesday), Gabriel Zakuani (Peterborough), Matt Taylor (Portsmouth), Jean Louis Akpa Akpro (Shrewsbury), Ryan Flynn and Paul Coutts (Sheffield United), Connor Sammon (Port Vale), Ryan Dow (Dundee United), George Williams (Barnsley), Gary Madine and Emile Heskey (Bolton), Luke Freeman (Bristol City), Ricky Holmes (Northampton Town), Gboly Ariyibi (Chesterfield), Toisant Rickets (Boluspor), Marvin Johnson (Motherwell), and Ryan Ledson (Everton).
That’s another eighteen rumours from which Marvin Johnson and Ryan Ledson signed.
Which brings us to our thirteen other signings; Simon Eastwood, Wes Thomas, Aaron Martin, Christian Ribeiro, Curtis Nelson, Joe Rothwell, Chris Maguire, Rob Hall, Kane Hemming, Tyler Roberts, Phil Edwards, Daniel Crowley and Charlie Raglan. Thomas was mentioned in pre-announcement rumours less than 24 hours before he signed and Roberts was spotted at the friendly against Brighton the day before he was announced, so neither count.
So, a whole transfer window; 45 rumoured and real moves, four satisfying the criteria of being a rumour that became real. That's an 11% success rate. We can conclude, therefore, that the Twitter rumour mill is, 89% of the time, a pile of horseshit.