THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

18 January ~ If the 2011-12 season will be known as anything, it should be the season of the loan. An incredible amount of loan deals have been struck already, at all levels of the league. The super-rich clubs have become something of a lending library for top quality players who are surplus to their requirements. Manchester City have fulfilled this role particularly well this season. Roberto Mancini may have put his foot down when it was rumoured that Carlos Tevez would be leaving on loan, but he didn't intervene when out of favour Emmanuel Adebayor was lent to Tottenham for the season, a dangerous move given that Spurs are now troubling the top of the table, thanks in part to the Togolese forward.

Then we have the influx of players from the MLS. Semi-retired players who were once deemed no longer good enough for the Premier League are being welcomed back with open arms. Is this really a progressive step? If Aston Villa really need Robbie Keane, surely they should attempt to sign him permanently. If not, then why not invest the time he spends playing into upcoming youth players instead?

The biggest problem with this loan culture is in the lower divisions. Lower-league clubs are becoming dependent on loaned players from bigger clubs. Northampton Town are lying bottom of League Two, but new manager Aidy Boothroyd's solution of mass loaning has to be questioned. Last weekend he fielded a starting 11 that featured four on-loan players, including strikers Saido Berahino and Akwasi Asante – both of whom are on one month (albeit rolling) emergency youth loans.

What does the manager expect to happen when these players leave? Any form found by the team (which, as an aside, they're still searching for) will be lost. Meanwhile, the players who have been shoved onto the bench to make way for the loanees will be out of form and feeling pretty dejected.

It is short termism at its worst, and Northampton are by no means the only club guilty of it this season. A look at the January transfer window shows that a number of League sides are looking to the loan market for a quick fix to poor starts to the season. League Two strugglers Aldershot have already taken four players on loan in this window alone, while League One's Rochdale and Championship side Crystal Palace have three apiece so far.

These additions might help improve the clubs' positions, but they create a strange atmosphere for fans, who know their best players for the season are only sticking around for as long as they have to. Once the loanees move on, be it after a month or at the end of the season, managers are back to square one, left with the players they didn't trust in the first place.

Perhaps managers need to spend less time looking for players in the leagues above, and invest a bit more time in managing the talent they already have in their own squads. Tom Shepherd

Comments (16)
Comment by JM Footzee 2012-01-18 12:50:52

I'd say last year was worse, in the Championship at least. There you had Bellamy at Cardiff and Leicester with a whole squadron of hugely expensive Premier League rejects that propelled them up the league. They kept precisely none of them.

Comment by rckd 2012-01-18 13:15:39

Ill-timed article, asi t was announced a month ago that emergency loans are being scrapped by FIFA from 2014 anyway.

Also ill-timed considering that a whole bunch of non-league clubs have gone to pot this weekend. Lots of smaller clubs have no option but to loan players in the current market - it isn't that they don't trust their own players, but more that they can't afford to own a squad with enough depth to compete in 50 games per season.

Comment by bearlion 2012-01-18 13:45:33

Perfectly timed article from a Villa point of view - spot on about Keane. Yesterday lunchtime the reserves beat Wolves 7-1 with Andreas Weimann scoring a hat-trick and Nathan Delfouneso 1. What's the point of spending 500k-plus on Keane for a few games when there are young strikers that deserve a run? He did such a good short-term job for West Ham last season after all. One of many questionable moves by McLeish.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-01-18 14:51:08

Amen to that Tom. This short-term quick-fix culture is really not for me. If I was the type of guy who bought replica shirts, I certainly wouldn't bother putting anybody's name on the back of it. No way!

My lot shipped virtually the whole squad out last summer, and then shipped in NINETEEN new faces. Our youth team graduates are currently out on loan all over the place. We've had a few loanees coming in this season as well - and going out already. And I believe we've signed a couple more players (so far) in the current transfer window.

I haven't a clue what most of these players look like. Some of them, I struggle to remember what their first names are. All I know is, last season these fellas were the enemy, this season their Our Heroes, and next season - who knows? I fully expect three quarters of them to be gone come next season. And I still don't know who owns the club these days - some offshore investment company, apparently, with no named directors. To tell the truth, I don't know who (or what) I'm meant to be supporting anymore. It no longer feels like I'm supporting MY team.

And that's the hardest thing for me to take. It's not my team anymore - it's the owner's team, whoever he/she/it is.

Comment by eighteen85 2012-01-18 15:19:30

The whole loan system is, frankly, farcical nowadays – in many cases, it seems that a club’s success or otherwise is as much down to the manager’s network of friends and/or family as his managerial ability. And what sort of advertisement is it for the “Best League in the World” that its – supposedly mega-rich - clubs are abusing a system primarily designed for smaller, less wealthy clubs (not that that sort of selfishness should come as any surprise).

It’s no better further down the leagues, a story in a newspaper last weekend indicated that Fleetwood Town were hoping to sell Jamie Vardy for a fee in the region of £1 million then immediately have him loaned back for the rest of the season. Notwithstanding the fact that their Crawley-esque backers are giving them a massive advantage already, it now looks like the one club in the Blue Square Premier that doesn’t need the money will get both a further cash injection to ensure that their plan to purchase promotion succeeds AND gets the benefit of retaining the services of the player sold to fund those deals. Financial Fair Play, my arse.

I could go on to list some of my ideas for improving the system, but as has already been mentioned above it looks like its days are numbered anyway. A shame in one way because used properly it’s a system that can have a lot of benefits but when it’s been abused like it has over the past few years in this country, good riddance.

Comment by Red Adder 2012-01-18 16:23:58

Its certainly not doing Ipswich any favours - and probably contributed to Norwich dipping in to Lge 1 a few years ago.

Comment by Harbinger of Hope 2012-01-18 17:17:06

It is not just emergency loans that are the problem. I think season long loans are probably worse.

Take Adebayor as an example. If Man City do not want him, they should sell him, not be able to hawk him around mid-table Premier League clubs. Also the infamous "can't play against his parent club" clause, is clearly anti-competitive.

From my point of view, loans were supposed to be for emergencies. ie both your keepers get injured, you borrow someone else's number 3 for a couple of weeks until one of them gets fit. The word emergency has completely lost its meaning in the context of loan players.

The big clubs rarely bring through their own talent any more. Instead they send them on loan for 6 months or a year and let someone else do it for them. Thereby preserving their results only agenda. Cleverley to Wigan, Sturridge to Bolton, Welbeck to Sunderland. In this window you've got McEachran to Swansea. It's a total joke.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-01-18 17:35:40

Football fans don't half moan. Of all the things wrong with football, a player coming to a team for 3 months or so and then leaving is not up there.

Lincoln loaned Davide Somma from Leeds. His goals effectively saved Lincoln, it propelled him into the Leeds side and gave Leeds a player who now has experience of the English leagues and was able to score some crucial goals for them. Ashley Grimes came next season and his bucketful of goals nearly saved us, gave him experience and allowed him to negotiate a bigger money move, and it got Millwall more money for a player. Chris Herd came on loan from Villa and his work in midfield saved Lincoln by helping Somma, he got experience and forced his way into the Villa team, Villa know what they can expect from him.

Yes a manager exploits his networks but all managers do. The ones at bigger clubs can buy them, as Hughes will be about to do through his agent. The poorer ones get helping hands with loans.

Comment by geobra 2012-01-18 19:17:06

There is one plus in all this. In 20, 30, 40 years time, no 10-year-old boy will be forced, like the son of Gordon Ottershaw in Michael Palin's classic 'Ripping Yarn' 'Golden Gordon', to learn by heart the names of the 11 players who represented his father's favourite team long before he was born. But I suppose he might be asked to remember 27 names instead!!

Comment by 1974ddr 2012-01-18 19:26:38

I agree that the situation is ludicrous, but as has been pointed out by others the loan system can be beneficial, albeit on a short-term basis, for lower division clubs. My 'solution' would be that players should only be allowed to be loaned to clubs in a lower division than the parent club. This would obviate the need to ban players playing against their parent club, and (who knows?) might help reduce the ever increasing squad size of the megarich clubs. As it stands, the likes of United and Chelsea can loan their youngsters out to sink or swim with the Premier's small fry. If they look good then they're whipped back with extra experience- Cleverley, Welbeck, Wilshere, Sturridge, Walker... if not, then they can be discarded. A season long loan spell in the Championship or an extended spell of reserve team football may be a less attractive prospect to both player and club. And the financial argument shouldn't really apply in the Premier, surely? Perhaps there's a case for newly promoted clubs, but with the money swilling round at the top level, established clubs should be looking to develop their own players, not those of their (nominal) competitors.

And speaking as a Villa fan, I've no axe to grind with Chris Herd, nor indeed Lincoln City, but has half a season or so with Lincoln struggling to avoid the Conference really helped force him into the Villa team? I would have thought the limited number of alternatives probably had more bearing.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-01-19 10:59:22

So you don't think scoring a goal featured live on TV and a serious of stand out performances for Lincoln had any bearing on the use of Chris Herd? You don't think giving him games under his belt in the English league helped? I think it did and on that we will have to differ.

Comment by HORN 2012-01-19 12:03:48

Chris Herd was loaned to Port Vale 3 or 4 years ago. He was dynamite. Perhaps he'd have made it into Villa's first team a bit sooner but we never made it onto live telly, hence Villa's coaching staff had no means of knowing whether he was any good.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-01-19 16:33:03

Featuring on telly means fans get to see the player and might add to the clamour for a player and put pressure on the staff to have the player in the team.

Comment by joen 2012-01-19 20:45:20

"...we never made it onto live telly, hence Villa's coaching staff had no means of knowing whether he was any good."

I'm sure the Villa coaching staff would have kept an eye on Herds progress after loaning him out-scouts at games, contact with Port Vale etc-in order to monitor his development and see whether being loaned out was benefiting the player. I can't imagine them simply hoping that Vale might appear on TV in order for them to get a look at their player.

Regarding loans as a whole I'm inclined to agree with the article-the present situation is out of hand and needs addressing. I can remember a time when all loans were short term, to help a club through an injury crisis for example, and the season-long loan was unheard of. The idea of clubs only being able to loan out players to lower divisions seems to be a sensible restriction on the current system, but I would also advocate greater controls on the numberof players permitted in a squad. This way clubs would be prevented from signing players simply to stop their rivals from signing them, then loaning out to whoever they see fit. Perhaps a limit of 25 players, no more than 2 of whom can be available for loan or in on loan at any one time.

Comment by wishis 2012-01-19 23:25:48

I agree with 1974 and restricting, i have always believed that you should not be allowed to loan a player within the same leaue amd think this should be reintroduced.

The system has been abused ror too long' but to be famr the lack of reserve team football can only have added to this situation, as the only means for some players to get regular games

Comment by bearlion 2012-01-21 18:15:57

As I've always said, the loaning of Robbie Keane was a master stroke by McLeish.

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