VIRGO: Ending loans will help the English kids
THE proposed termination of the emergency loan system may be a nightmare for football clubs, but it could be great news for young English players. Right now, transfer windows don’t mean much outside the Premier League. Managers can loan players from September to November and then again from February until March. The FA may have convinced FIFA to hold fire for 12 months, but as things stand, change will kick in for 2016-17.
In fairness, you can understand why smaller clubs are up in arms. They say the loan system is the only way they can survive.
There are other issues too. When I was at Bristol Rovers, we had knee injury after knee injury. At one stage there were four of us out with cruciates. You can’t plan for that.
And what if a bug goes round? What if you eat a dodgy bit of chicken the night before a match and it wipes out half the team? What if you lose your goalkeepers? There are times when loans are justified. But, for me, scrapping the current system can’t come soon enough.
Academies and youth teams are full of talented young kids who just need a chance. But too many managers see them as a risk. They’re far more comfortable going into the Championship and loaning someone who’s a little bit older and has experience of lower league football.
It happened to me loads of times when I was first starting out. You’re 1718, you’re desperate for a chance to prove yourself.
You’re on the bench for a while, travelling all over the country. Then somebody gets injured and you get on for the last 15 minutes.You think ‘Great, this is it’.
But even if you played well, the boss would immediately go into the loan market and get somebody in for a month to cover the injury. All of a sudden, you’re back to square one and your development is hampered.
We all know why this happens – managers fear the sack. But if their hands are tied and everybody is in the same boat, they’ll have to play youngsters. And we’ve seen before how cash-strapped clubs have – through necessity – unearthed rough diamonds.
Crewe have done it for years. In the mid-2000s, Stockport were forced to play the likes of Anthony Pilkington, Tommy Rowe and Ashley Williams. Guys like Cyrus Christie and Callum Wilson would never have got their break at Coventry so early if not for the lack of cash.
Just look at some of the guys I came through with at Brighton – Adam ElAbd, Dan Harding, Dean Hammond, who is still in the Premier League. Rochdale are a great example of a club currently growing their own on a tight budget.
But they are the lucky ones. I’ve
seen so many good young players fail to make it, not because they weren’t good enough but because they didn’t get chance to show it.
In a similar vein, this could help lower league clubs attract better players. Parents of young players naturally gravitate towards big teams. Their kids get an offer from Chelsea or Arsenal and their eyes light up. But realistically, you’re not going to get a look in there. And if you can’t go on loan, what’s the point?
Now, though, you could go into a League One side – an Oldham or a Barnsley – and think ‘Right, I’m training with the first team, they can’t loan anyone, I’ve got a really good chance here’. That’s where I’d want my kids.
As a young player, there’s nothing worse than feeling you haven’t got a chance. What this will do is give them hope, motivation and a clear path.
Yes, a minority of clubs will suffer. But I think the wider benefits – to young players and the English game – are worth the pain.
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