D3D4 Walsall Correspondent Darren Young gives his take on Loans in his latest instalment…
Is Something Borrowed Making Some Fans Blue?
Well, the transfer window finally closed and most of the players who couldn’t wait to leave their clubs are still with them.
The ones in the Premier League anyway.
It doesn’t happen so much in the EFL, and especially in the lower two divisions because there simply isn’t the money around to make it a big issue.
If you’re left with a surplus-to-requirements player, there is always the ability to pay them off (usually an option unless they are a particularly big earner or refuse to budge). And shipping players out on loan is a much neater option if your transfer window dealings leave you a little overstaffed in some positions.
The money in the Premier League has created a situation where it’s harder for clubs to do what they want. The players hold much more power and the assets are too expensive (and growing after the Neymar-induced inflation this summer). Now footballers can choose to stay put and wait for a free transfer. Or have an injury that keeps them out of club football but is perfectly OK for international football. And big spenders can float virtual blank cheques in front of clubs and players they covet if they want to.
Of course, PL clubs don’t HAVE to sell these days. They have more financial clout themselves but they still have a squad full of highly paid players, grounds to maintain or build, transfer fees to pay and planes to charter (the 14-minute flight from Leicester to Manchester is now boarding at Gate 2 – really).
Some, like Southampton as an example, showed tremendous resolve to resist any bids for VVD – despite his willingness to go – and make him train with the under-23 squad. But they now have a pretty fed up, £60-£70m player on their hands who they must surely now reintegrate with the first team and try to get a decent season out of him (the long and lucrative contract should help).
Or he might down tools and force a move in January. Six months is a long time in anything; including football, after all. Isn’t it?
One of the positive moves made in English football in recent times is the changes to the loan system – that previously allowed clubs to bring in a large number of temporary signings throughout the season provided they didn’t play more than a certain number at any one time.
It helped Barnsley to get promotion from League 1 two years ago when after a poor start (near bottom in November) they charged up the league, blitzing my own team, Walsall, in the play offs with half a team of players from other clubs. Not saying there was anything wrong with that.
But there so was. Or it felt like it at the time anyway.
It gave clubs, and those with a bit of cash even more so, an advantage over the rest because they could raid the reserve squads of PL and Championship clubs to overhaul their under-performing XI. Of course, it was within the rules so everyone could have done the same thing but the lop-sidedness of this was recognised and now, loans have to be done during the window like every other transfer.
It helps clubs to know what their squad will be from the start of the season. Or September as remember, August is now just an extended pre-season of trying things out. The advantage is that it allows clubs to build a squad and stick with it for the season.
Or does it?
Because there is still the six-month loan. And what on earth is a six-month loan anyway?
I get the January window six-month loan. It’s exactly like any transfer; the manager has identified gaps or weaknesses in the first half of the season and is plugging them with a new player for the remainder of the campaign.
But a six-month loan on August 31? That’s the one that makes less sense.
For a kick off, it’s not six months in that it really begins from July 1 and some don’t sign on till we are nearly in September. And then, the player can go back to their parent club in January or worse, be loaned out again to one of your rivals. So the club who gets them first effectively showcases their talent and warms them up nicely for another club to get the real benefit at the business end of the season.
Or the parent club realise they are better off with them than without and recall them to be a bench-warming cover player, like Chelsea did with Nathan Ake last season.
Walsall brought in two such loan players this transfer deadline night – which was a surprise in itself because the Sky Sports News reporters usually have no reason whatsoever to go anywhere near the Banks’s in a yellow tie or equivalent neck-wear for females.
My reaction was mixed. Great that we had increased our sparse attacking options but worried that it might all end in tears in January. I know there is every chance that loans can be extended, or other, better players coming in to replace them, but it still leaves me with a feeling of unease. And two years after bemoaning Barnsley’s approach, we are now doing exactly the same thing and could have half an outfield team of loan players when Saturday comes.
But loans, of any length, are simply too attractive to all concerned. The parent club get a player off their wage bill (or some of it) and free a place on their squad – while also giving their player valuable playing time. The receiving club get a player with none of the risk of a full-time acquisition that they can simply send back (after a year, half a year or even sooner if it all goes belly up aka mutual consent) and the player gets to play and show what they can do (so their parent club, new club or other clubs know all about them).
Very often, the player would be out of reach financially. Last season, we got a lad from Celtic who had played against Barcelona and others in the Champions League in the first half of the season. To try and buy a player like that would be impossible for a lower league club so a loan makes perfect sense. Or even in the top league because Swansea could never realistically shell out for Renato Sanchez from Bayern Munich; but they can get him (wages part-paid too) for a season without any problem at all.
But can you get emotionally attached to a loanee? They aren’t and most likely never will be ‘one of your own’ and there is damned if they do well and damned if they don’t sense to it all. And is it right to hope they do just enough to want to stay but not enough that they’ll have to go? We football fans are fickle enough without adding potentially half-hearted players to the mix.
So, in summary, I might have gone a step further and said that only season-long loans could happen in August and abolish the six-month option altogether.
Then the player is in it for the long haul. Or a season and that’s about as long haul as it gets in League’s 1 and 2. Then we can adopt them properly, give them an affectionate nickname, make them feel at home and cheer them on, safe in the knowledge that they’ll still be there come the end of April whenever it is this time.
Unless they turn out to be crap of course.
Then they can **** right off.