THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

Comments (5)
Comment by Lincoln 2009-12-15 16:10:13

Lincoln have something like 10 players on loan at present and it is stopping some of the youngsters making the step up. That said, they have the option, which some have taken, of playing in the BSP. It is an interesting perspective though and nice to see an article acknowledging the lower leagues. Usually in Red Top land, nasty foreign players (who dive unlike Rooney) stop our boys from playing football in the prem. They have to hang up their boots because they can't get a game. This ignores the fact that there is a very healthy league just below the Premiership where youngsters like Crouch and Defoe can learn their trade.

Comment by igray 2009-12-15 21:19:57

I think this is a topic that definately needs to be addressed and fast. Being a Southend fan I agree with Lincoln that its great to see an article well written about lower league football. Southend have had several players on loan, which has helped the club out massively in terms of the club not being able to pay fees for any players and also being under a transfer embargo. One point I would like to raise is that recently Southend were not allowed to include sub goalkeeper Ian Joyce in the match day squad if we were to gain centre back Sean Morrison on loan due to debts not being paid. I dont understand how the FA see that as helping a club so close to going into administration. Despite the positives of the loan system, questions can be asked of whether or not players really want to be at the club as one player on loan at Southend this season was sent back to his parent club for reportedly missing several team meetings and being a trouble maker.

Comment by madmickyf 2009-12-15 23:39:51

The problem is that with no restrictions on squad sizes in the Premier League it is too easy for the rich clubs to go around signing up huge numbers of talented young players. These players are not going to get straight into the first team so they then get offered to lower league clubs on loan. There needs to be a maximum squad size to stop the Premier League monopolising the young talent.

Comment by fieryelephant 2009-12-16 08:34:48

I agree that something needs to be done. It was always annoying enough having your best players snatched away by bigger teams at any early age, but when they're not even yours to start with it's very dis-spiriting. Another area that the system is abused is to get around the transfer window - on day deadline day in November my team Aldershot had two championship teams wanting to take our top scorer on loan "with view to a permanent move". Fortunately we were able to rebuff them, but otherwise we risked losing our best player, despite being in the play-off places with no opportunity of replacing him. There's then no guarantee the move will become permanent and we will get a fee.

Comment by pashley 2009-12-16 13:57:28

Not sure where I stand on this as I agree that loan players do stop local youth players from breaking through. But they do give other youth players an opportunity. MacDonald is from Swansea and while he has talent he doesn't seem to be able to display it with the Swans on a regular basis and gets little first team football. He performs well when on loan or for the Welsh U21s however and I suspect Yeovil may be able to sign him permanently in January as long as they can agree a small fee and large sell on clause. His loan move is good for the player and hopefully for Wales. Sounds like Yeovil need to get the right balance however.

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