15 December 2009 ~ UEFA president Michel Platini last season grabbed the headlines when he condemned David Beckham's high-profile three month loan spell with AC Milan as "bad for the game". It is an increasingly prevalent argument and one that I couldn't help but be reminded of after the weekend's League One action at my club, Yeovil Town. On Saturday they grabbed an excellent point in a 3-3 home draw with Norwich. Of more significance than the scoreline however, was the scorers, with youngsters Jon Obika and Shaun MacDonald both on target for the Glovers, along with Dean Bowditch. Sadly for Yeovil, neither Obika nor MacDonald are products of their own youth system.
Obika, who is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and MacDonald, borrowed from Swansea City, were in fact among five loan players in the Yeovil squad for the game. The club's other loanees are 19-year-old Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, and Obika's fellow Spurs team-mates Ryan Mason and Steven Caulker, both of whom have represented England Under-19s. All five players have featured regularly for Yeovil this season, with Mason and Obika also the club's top scorers.
While it is difficult to begrudge Yeovil legend turned player-manager Terry Skiverton every success, you fear for the long-term health of small clubs reliant on these temporary fixes. Like many others, Skiverton has been very astute in his acquisition of some of the most talented youngsters in the country, albeit on a temporary basis. But while the system suits the bigger clubs whose top academy players can be sent out to get first team football without being risked at the top level, what about the young players coming through at these smaller clubs?
The system can look like a further reflection of the ever-increasing gulf between the Premier League elite and everyone else. The more players brought in on loan, the further your own youngsters just go down the pecking order. While not suggesting that Yeovil shouldn't sign people from outside the south-west, the Glovers seem to be in the process of losing their local identity. Current captain Craig Alcock came up through the ranks but he may not have many successors until the inherent problems with the loan system are addressed. Gareth Burton