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Analysis Opinion Insight

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To Loan or Not to Loan

A common question that needs to be answered about young, developing players who show amazing promise in the youth system and reserve teams, is whether to loan them out to a club where they will play first team football and gain experience, or whether to keep them at the club and keep playing in the reserves and in a few Cup games. Both routes have clear advantages, however it is also clear that both have problems attached.

Let's start with the advantages of sending players out on loan. Clearly, if a player is sent out on loan to a club in say, the Championship or League 1, he is hopefully going to get a decent amount of time on the pitch. Match practice and the experience gained by the exposure to different match situations, as well as the exposure to different environments, as well as different styles of play, different tactics and what is perceived to be a more physical game.
If a player is not likely to play enough first team football at their "home-club" to gain the required experience to make a lasting impression in the first team.

However, as great as loaning players out may sound, there are certain disadvantages. If a player is loaned out to the wrong club, then the consequences are disastrous. Look no further than Frazier Campbell last season. He was loaned to Tottenham,where he struggled to get a regular game, meaning that not only did he gain nothing from his time there, but he was away from United, his home club, his regular coaches and the world class players at Carrington for a whole season. This can have a disastrous effect on a player's morale, and their development has been disrupted for a whole 12 months. True he may have learned to play alongside different players, in a different system, under a different coach, but what he really needed was games, goals and match experience, of which he received little. Other examples include, Rossi at Newcastle, Lee Martin at Rangers, Danny Simpson at Blackburn, Manucho at Hull, all for varying reasons, attitudes, manager's preference, etc etc, didn't get enough game time at Top League clubs to develop as footballers. The results of bad loan spell
are usually pretty disastrous for the players chances back at their "home-clubs". Rossi was sold off, as was Manucho, Campbell and Martin as well as other countless other graduates of the Academy System.


That said however, some loans help a player develop, John O'Shea's loan to Bournemouth and Royal Antwerp in 2000 and 2001 helped him progress as a player and as a person. Darron Gibson's loans to Royal Antwerp and to Wolves exposed him to the various elements required to progress up the pecking order at Old trafford, adding 54 appearances in two seasons to his academy education. Fangzhou Dong had a great spell on loan at Royal Antwerp along with Gibson and Jonny Evans, amongst others, scoring 33 goals in 61 games
over two seasons, but he was deemed not good enough for United, and subsequently sold, while Evans was given more time, on the basis of his younger age, and proved his believers right by impressing on subsequent loan spells at Sunderland and breaking into the first team squad to cover for the seemingly injury prone Ferdinand and Vidic. Ben Foster made 73 appearances on loan at Watford and 17 at Wrexham, while at Manchester United and Stoke respectively, which, as a young goalkeeper, no doubt helped him develop his decision making, shot stopping and distribution skills, which, if his potential is fulfilled, will make him United's number 1 and Englands World Cup first choice.

If the decision is made to keep a player at a club, then many positives can come as a result of this. Some players show the correct mindset required to make the step-up from youth and reserve football to the rigours and professionalism of the big leagues. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Wes Brown and Darren Fletcher, have over the past 20 years, have been able towork their way from the reserves into the first team squad. Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda have been identified as potential candidates to follow that path, while other such as Possebon, Cleverley, Drinkwater, Heaton, Simpson and Ljajic and Diouf have been sent on loan to increase their match experience and skill levels.
Hopefully they get enough games to improve their all round games, and profit from their loan experiences enough to win a place in the first team upon thier return.

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