Fernando Forestieri: One of the Hornets’ many talented Udinese signings

by Ronnie Mewes

For many years the loan system between clubs has been a mutually beneficial arrangement. Lower league clubs achieve their goals whilst remaining financially solvent while the larger clubs reap the rewards of their young prospects developing and growing as players.

This is a proven method at even the highest of levels and in recent years many clubs have seen talents returning from loan spells with a much greater set of developed attributes in all aspects of play. Jack Wilshere the young star at struggling Arsenal was allowed a spell with Bolton Wanderers which seems like the catalyst of his growth as a player, Owen Coyle who oversaw the eighteen year old Whilshere during his spell at the Reebok has said, “Jack is a very talented player. He is such a gifted lad and has matured no end. He came to us as a boy and went back to Arsenal as a man.” Allowing players to experience first team experience is a vital component needed within the game and a player who had only previously represented Arsenal at competitive level fifteen times went to Bolton and was used as a first team regular. This seemed to have ignited the passion and skill within the young star who returned to his parent club an established Premier League presence and represented the Gunners forty nine times in the following season.

However the loan system has since come under scrutiny from Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway, speaking after a 2-2 draw with Watford.

“They’ve got some world-class players that they’ve borrowed from almost one club. It seems pretty ludicrous to me” Holloway is of course known for being an outspoken manager in previous years; however on this occasion does he have a point? It is one thing loaning a player or two with a view to helping along their development but having virtually a team of loanees is surely a step too far. This is precisely the situation at Watford who have borrowed an astonishing ten players from Udinese this term, a rather generous donation of personnel if not that both clubs are owned by Giampaolo Pozzo.

Watford could argue that they are simply using tools left at their disposal, and as the rulebook goes they are doing nothing which breaches the laws of the game. But, is it acceptable for an owner to significantly strengthen one of his clubs by plundering from his other?  What’s more, although this is not a breach of current rules it is surely a breach of fairness, something football strives for around the world.

Another argument that derives from this is that home grown players may now be forced further down the pecking order if clubs are able to exploit this apparent loophole of going abroad first. English players are often over inflated in terms of price as it is so surely giving them more chances to grow via the loan system should be the Football Association’s priority. With the restriction recently placed upon Premier League teams to have maximum squad sizes of twenty five not including under twenty one stars, there will be ample opportunity to loan in not only a developing youngster but also established players who have fallen down their clubs pecking order, a recent example is Craig Bellamy going on a seasonal loan spell to boyhood club Cardiff and playing a huge part in their season.

So where are you on the issues Holloway brings up? Is it a loophole that surely needs closing? Do you believe in the loan system with the recent restructuring of the Professional Development League? And most pertinently of all, is it immoral for owners of multiple clubs to exploit their business links?