Loan deals raising a lot of interest
Ipswich Town boss Jim Magilton will be bracing himself for a hefty phone bill following his desperate search for temporary reinforcements this week. His hunt may have been in vain but as any manager outside of the Premier League will testify, manipulation of the loan market is an increasingly important part of the job, as Josh Warwick reportsDURING Ipswich Town's memorable 1980-81 season, the Blues played 67 competitive matches as they competed domestically and in Europe.
Ipswich Town boss Jim Magilton will be bracing himself for a hefty phone bill following his desperate search for temporary reinforcements this week. His hunt may have been in vain but as any manager outside of the Premier League will testify, manipulation of the loan market is an increasingly important part of the job, as Josh Warwick reports
DURING Ipswich Town's memorable 1980-81 season, the Blues played 67 competitive matches as they competed domestically and in Europe.
Emergency loans and transfer windows were still to be invented, forcing Sir Bobby Robson's finely tuned outfit to make do and mend.
Only a handful of players were tasked with wearing the blue and white shirt as Town finished the campaign as UEFA Cup winners.
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But today, the game has changed beyond all recognition.
The concept of borrowing players is a much a part of 21st football management as ranting at the referee or getting sent to the stands.
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The loan market is critical to clubs outside the Premier League, unable to spend with the sort of gay abandon seen at top flight clubs.
At Portman Road, boss Jim Magilton has negotiated short-term deals for Stephen Bywater, Shefki Kuqi and, most recently, Danny Simpson.
But, his use of the loan system has not been confined to welcoming fresh blood. With the comforting injection of Marcus Evans' recent investment, Town are manipulating the system in a different way.
This season, Tommy Smith, Billy Clarke, Dean Bowditch, Jaime Peters, Matt Richards, Shane Supple, Gary Roberts and the now departed George O'Callaghan have all left on temporary deals.
While the new recruits have been the principal reason behind the culture change, Magilton's hand has been further forced by the lack of quality in the reserve league.
“We need to get some of our young players out on loan and get them first-team football,” he admitted.
Yet, such is the revolution sweeping football, players are being loaned out for so long they may soon be forgiven for forgetting which club they actually play for.
Scott Carson - owned by Liverpool if you weren't sure - has only visited Anfield as a visitor in recent seasons.
After a brief loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday, Carson spent the entire 2006/07 campaign at Charlton and is currently enjoying a similar stint at Aston Villa.
Manchester United have also pushed the boundaries, previously loaning Ben Foster and Tim Howard to Watford and Everton respectively.
Taken to its practical conclusion, United could legally, according to Premier League rules, assemble a squad of ten talented goalkeepers to be loaned throughout the division, ensuring that they alone would play half of their matches against inexperienced understudies.
In 2003, when West Ham were last relegated, Bolton Wanderers survived in part because of Sam Allardyce's astute use of the loan system. While players such as Iván Campo, Salva Ballesta, Bernard Mendy and Florent Laville kept Bolton up, home-grown English players such as Joe Cole went down and were lost to West Ham soon after.
Wealthy Chelsea have also used the system to their benefit, loaning out Alexei Smertin only days after he had signed on at Stamford Bridge.
Such behaviour among the game's aristocracy is responsible for a growing resentment among the country's smaller teams who are unhappy at the stockpiling of players.
Reading manager Steve Coppell has publicly condemned the operation, claiming it allows the wealthiest teams to monopolise the market, leaving the rest to feed off their scraps.
“They can only put 11 on the pitch,” he said. “If they lost the loan system then all these clubs wouldn't stockpile 40-odd players.
“It is ridiculous that clubs can buy 40 or 50 players, loan them out and get the benefit of that loan.
“For the big boys to monopolise the transfer market so much by buying so many players is not healthy.”
European governing body UEFA has already acted to combat what it describes as a number of negative trends in European football, including professional leagues ignoring grassroots sources and the tendency of the wealthiest clubs to hoard players.
Yet the Football Association in England is not so quick to denounce the loan system.
In a recently commissioned FA report, the temporary market was lauded for its ability to offer youth players a chance to sample the cut and thrust of meaningful football.
The report, A Review of Young Player Development in Professional Football, highlights the “growing success” of borrowing and lending.
Last season, some 310 players under aged 23 were loaned out either between Football League clubs or between Premier League and Football League clubs.
“Increasingly, clubs are sending out young players to continue their football education at a more meaningful level, playing competitive first team football at a club at a lower level,” the report found.
“The system should be encouraged but closely monitored.”
However, a burgeoning youth set-up should not be overlooked.
“The loan system cannot be seen as a replacement for a club's own youth programme,” the report said. “The possible negative impact this may have on morale and local player production could bring into question the value of operating programmes in smaller clubs.
“The loan system should be designed, at all times, to benefit the development needs of the player.”
After Manchester United used the loan system to sign Carlos Tevez on a two-year deal, Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry called for
temporary moves to be banned in the Premiership.
Parry, formerly chief executive at the Premier League, said he believes the loan system could be abused and thinks clubs are wealthy enough to make the practice unnecessary.
“When I was at the Premier League we always took the view that, given the money in the Premier League, you didn't need loans - you should be able to stand on your own two feet.
“There is enough money around to make transfer deals permanent. That stood for more than ten years. It's only in the last two or three years we have had the loan system in the Premier League.
“It worked fine without it. There is a sense that it can be open to abuse. But clearly it was the will of the clubs to allow the relaxation of it and clearly the majority are in favour.”
The effects of astute transfer activity in the loan market can be significant.
Norwich's mid-season revival was due in no small part to the six loan stars who lifted City from the bottom of the league to mid-table mediocrity.
Glenn Roeder has called in favours from Premiership managers from the off, bringing in Martin Taylor from Birmingham on his first full day in the job.
The unsustainable nature of his transfer tactics will ensure a turbulent, close season.
While Roeder has refuted suggestions he has relied too much on other clubs' players, he admits there will be an unsettling period of transition this summer.
“Rome wasn't built in a day and nor was Norwich,” he said. “Unfortunately, or fortunately, we will probably be losing up to 15 players in the new season, including the six loans.
“The key to the turnaround in fortunes has been the loan players that we have managed to secure and we will have to hit the loan system next year as well to make up the numbers.
“I am very lucky - I have enough friends in the Premier League to lend me some of their players because they know I'll play them. They don't sit in the stand.”
Dipping into the loan market isn't always a recipe for success, however.
This week, Charlton boss Alan Pardew admitted his fingers had been burnt after new signings failed to kick-start the south London club's faltering promotion drive.
Greg Halford, Lee Cook, Scott Sinclair and Leroy Lita have all failed to make an impact at The Valley since joining on loan after the January transfer window, with Athletic winning just once in their last nine games.
“We had been searching for a team capable of winning automatic promotion,” the beleaguered boss revealed.
“In doing so, I muddled with the team and have now put our play-off position in jeopardy for which I take full responsibility.
“By bringing in loan players we tried to improve the side but in fact it knocked us back. Now we are fighting for our lives to get into the play-offs.”