Can we trust the domestic loan system?
With yesterdays announcement that Iago Falque has left on loan for the rest of the season, I yet again question the merits of our domestic loans.
Perhaps loaning Falque to Almeria who currently sit in second place in the Spanish second division, is as much about allowing a player a return to his home country with a view that his time is up with Tottenham and it is the best way to secure him a permanent move in the summer, however, I also wonder if Tottenham have looked long and hard at our own domestic game and quite rightly realised that our lower leagues are no place to develop our creative talent.
There is also talk that our young striker Souleymane Coulibaly will move to Italy and perhaps the same thinking could be applied there, if the belief is that he won't train on. However, will the same thing happen with our young English talent, should we seriously believe there isn't a suitable structure in England to bring on players such as Alex Pritchard. Last season Tim Sherwood spoke of the difficulties of placing someone like Tom Carroll, due to the type of football and its physical nature, making the right kind of footballing development impossible.
This season we have seen a very talented player in Massimo Luongo effectively miss out on an excellent loan opportunity at Ipswich, not due to his own failings, but from a change in playing style of a new manager and the teams early season struggles. Luongo was getting rave reviews at the start of the season for his impact at Portman Road, but clearly relegation struggles are not the place for inexperienced twenty year olds, and the direct football they currently employ under new manager Mick McCarthy is not Massimo's game.
I don't blame the new manager, because he was given a task of saving his club from relegation and so far his methods have been successful, however the choice of clubs that play nice football is decreasing and sadly even if you find a club that suits a players style, he has to face opposition that will do whatever they have to, to stop a gifted player, after all his development isn't their problem. Based on this, is loaning players abroad the next consideration? But in doing that, how does it prepare them for our own domestic game?
I would certainly suggest that the recent additions of the NextGen and Under-21 and excellent steps in the right direction, but the gap between them and the Premier league remains a massive jump and this still needs addressing and in so many cases, our Championship and below, simply don't cater for the ever increasing number of technical players developed in the Prem, as the style of play simply doesn't allow them to express themselves in the right way. People have accused John Bostock of many things, however is it him failing or the system that he plays? Perhaps if John was moved to Italy or Spain, he would be considered a far better and more complete player today.
Perhaps in the longer term there could be a step up league, perhaps with a greater emphasis on older and senior players taking part, though can we ever envisage our top teams taking over lower league clubs and developing players in a format of a nursery club? I like the sound of that as an idea and somewhere where, clubs can look to dictate how the football is played and therefore monitor players better and to their own plans, but as things stand, I see little chance of that happening, therefore is loaning players abroad the best and perhaps only short term answer? Would another alternative be to reward the lower leagues with greater financial reward and also relax the number of players allowed on loan. Not a guaranteed fix, but if clubs had a greater influence and perhaps even be allowed an unofficial say in playing policy, either as a whole or individually, we would see improvements in play and also quality.
Altering the face and shape of English football, may seem OTT, but is it the best and most logical step towards improving standards within our game and also securing a better long term future for clubs that face a constant struggle to survive. I am constantly amazed at how clubs survive in league 1 and 2, when there is such a high turnover of players and this is usually the result of short term contracts, often of one or three months. Is this really the way to go and as fans, is it better to have a relationship with a bigger club, who are willing to offer quality players for half or whole seasons, For me, I feel that lower league football has an identity crisis.
When I was a kid, I knew every Oxford United, by face and name, even though I didn't support them. However when I watched them, I knew the players and therefore felt an affinity and wanted to see them more. Today, occasional watchers see players one game and they are gone the next, is this really a way to gain a community and local support. Having a tie in with a Premiership club, may feel like losing a clubs identity, but with players coming and going without any real loyalty to a club beyond the very short contract, have they already lost that feel, and for the good of the game as a whole, should we seriously look at forging closer ties between top and bottom placed teams. The alternative may well be that clubs make a similar arrangement abroad and that for me doesn't make our game a winner on any level...