John McCormick writes: Another cup weekend means we can take a break from the “Guess the score” and “Who are you” features which signal our build up to games. We have a chance to look at some other aspects of our club and of football in general.
Which brings me to Wrinkly Pete and a thought producing opinion on the loan system. It was written before we beat Man United. I wonder if that game will have made Pete want to add Dame N’Doye to the list.
As you may recall, it was Polonius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3, who said “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”. If only the footballing powers had listened.
I have read recent media articles extolling the virtues of the loan system. One example used was that of our own talented goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, saying that his own progress had benefitted from being loaned out to lower-league sides. Possibly correct but where does that now leave Preston? I can already hear some people say “Who cares about Preston?” but it is important in my opinion because I believe the practice gives only a short term fix and stunts the long term strategic growth of a club.
To illustrate, I have made a list of some of the players who we have had on loan in recent seasons. I have put my honest appraisal beside each.
- 2006/7 & 2007/8 – Jonny Evans. Superb central defender who, simply by his presence, brought the best out of Nyron Nosworthy.
- 2008/9 – Djibril Cissé. A pleasure to watch with an explosive turn of pace.
- 2010/11- A bumper season: John Mensah, a class central defender, Nedum Onuoha, (who could forget his slalom run and goal at Stamford Bridge?) and Danny Welbeck, future England striker.
- 2011/12 – Nicklas Bendtner. He wasn’t always popular with some of our fans but how we could now do with someone with his hold up playing skills. His goals return of 8 in 28 appearances stands comparison too.
- 2012/13 – Danny Rose. After years without a proper left back, we were treated to one of genuine class, secure in defence and with the power and stamina to consistently support the attack.
|2013/14 – Ki Sung-yueng. We had been crying out for a midfielder with height who could ride a tackle, distribute well and score goals. Ki gave us just that.
Fabio Borini – Again he could divide opinion but scored some crucial and memorable goals, none more so than his sublime strike at Wembley.
- 2014/15 – Marcos Alonso. Like Danny Rose he was the complete left back and you do feel for Patrick Van Aanholt following in his footsteps.
- 2015/16 – Yann M’Vila. For me this season’s stand out player. A complete midfielder, without whose presence we would already be hopelessly lost.
Now, even whilst I was typing out that list, I could imagine people thinking – Well, what is your point? What would have happened if we hadn’t had those loan players?
My point is that their presence is purely temporary. Only one of them, Borini, has become a permanent player. Even here, due to the fact that he did not return immediately, there has been disruption to our recruitment or development plans. Would we have got someone better than the Borini mark two we now have if we had not spent so much time trying to persuade him to come during the summer of 2014? Would Watmore be further forward in his development if we had never had Borini on loan and played him instead that season?
I know this is hypothetical but it seems to me that the very existence of the loan system serves to hold back the progress of Academy players. Yes, I know we send them out to lower leagues to get “proper” game time but would they get their chance to make our first team earlier if the distraction of a loanee was not there?
Now, to answer the question of what would have happened to us without the loanees. Again this is hypothetical but I think it is likely that we would have been relegated, and possibly in season 2013/14 if you simply count up the goals scored by Ki and Borini and points gained in those relevant games. In that event, we would have lost out on a shed load of TV money albeit we would have, like Norwich who were relegated, had “parachute payment” money.
Of course, none of us likes to contemplate relegation but if you look at our record in recent seasons you would have to admit that statistically it is likely. My opinion is that overall, the loan system may have avoided relegation in the short term but has damaged the long term development of our permanent playing squad.