The Loan Army

Last updated : 14 September 2005 By Keith Allman

Ok, so you're a football manager and you take a look at your squad list. You can see that for one reason or another there's players who aren't much use to you at the moment and you're going to send them out on loan. There's normally one of three reasons;

1) They're young, so they need a bit of experience.
2) They're crap, so they're not going to get into the squad.
3) They're alright, but they're too impatient to sit on the bench and wait for a chance.

At the start of this season we had two sitting in the first camp; Richard Duffy who went to Coventry and Liam Horsted who has moved to Dunfermline. Now another two have joined those ranks - Vincent Pericard to Sheffield United and James Keene to Bournemouth. Likewise, Aliou Cissé is a hot tip to fall into the third grouping with a move to Derby on the cards (although thrown into doubt by their recent loan signings of Fadiga and Whittingham).

Now it's certainly no secret that during the Redknapp era we used the loan system very well, both in sending players out and recruiting the bodies needed during difficult times - Smertin is the best example, whilst the likes of Ritchie and Tavlaridis covered during the Championship winning season. Even Festa was on loan for one game as we struggled to rush his registration through on a bank holiday. These days loans at Pompey are a weird old thing - Robert is supposedly on loan, Skopelitis is on loan, Vukic is on loan with an option to buy and so forth. All needlessly confusing, but it's not the "loans in" that's the concern this time round. It's loans out.

In the Redknapp days he would constantly send the young'uns out to graze, referring back to his glory days at West Ham when the likes of Lampard, Ferdinand, Carrick and Defoe would all spend time at lower league clubs to build them into the world dominating money devouring monsters they are now. Likewise, a similar strategy was put into place at Fratton which saw a lot of short term comings and goings. But here's a shocking stat for you and one that should send shivers down the spine of Keene, Duffy, Horsted and Pericard (especially the latter if rumours of a permanent deal at the end of his loan to Sheffield United are true) - of the twenty-six players we've sent out on loan over the previous three years, only three of them are still here - Hughes, O'Neil and Mornar. And Mornar doesn't really count.

Admittedly you do have your fair share of "category three" players included in that list, the players who were never going to hang around - the likes of John Curtis, David Unsworth, Lee Bradbury, Deon Burton, Jamie Vincent, Pavel Srnicek and Deon Burton. But more worrying is when you refer to the list of players who were sent out on loan under the premise of "gaining experience" or "toughening up in the lower leagues". It's a virtual who's who of shattered dreams, of players supposed to be the next best thing but who turned out to be poor at best.

We've got Rowan Vine, Shaun Cooper, Courtney Pitt, Warren Hunt, Luke Nightingale, Carl Pettefer - they're all there! In total, twelve players sent out with the aim of getting experience have since been shifted on from Fratton since for one reason or t'other.

You can look at it one of two ways. Firstly that we've started to go down the short term route, gone for the cheap foreign option and that the likes of Gordon Taylor are right to criticise us for not investing in youth. On the other hand, you can say the club did the right thing. After all just look at those names above - Vine is hardly a Luton regular; Cooper was last seen having a trial with Bournemouth; Pitt has just had a trial with Cambridge; Hunt plays for Fareham; Nightingale is a bricklayer whilst playing for Bognor Regis; Pettefer is at Southend - none of them have really hit the heights so in a way the decisions of the management have turned out to be correct. In fact, this goes a lot deeper than simply our loan system, it opens up a whole ugly discussion about our youth system as a whole.

I'm not going to delve into that right now - that's a few thousand words for another day - but I'll end on this warning if I may.

Watch out Vinnie P. Neil Warnock wants to get his tentacles into you and wants you at Bramall Lane and if history repeats itself, you may not have a choice. And watch out too you other loanees. Your chances of success are not good.