How Ben Foster Highlights The Farce Of The Loan System


Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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11 Responses

  1. Nick OGS20 says:

    Really fail to see how Foster highlights the ‘farce of the loan system’ at all. His career was going nowhere with Stoke really, United took a chance on him as a young keeper, allowed him to develop out on loan at Watford (and simultaneously help them significantly) and it’s only the refusal of Edwin van der Sar to succumb to the ageing process that has limited his games with United and forced him to move on. Regardless, he’s accumulated England caps and is now first-choice at a top-half Premier League club with quite possibly another decade left of his career. Where’s the problem? Where’s the farce? I don’t see who’s lost out here – the clubs he’s been on loan at have benefited, Stoke have benefited quite nicely financially from a player they seemingly had little use for, United have benefited from his performances at times and profit on his transfer, and the player is obviously in a better position than one might have expected looking at his career in 2005.

    The loan system could do with a little tweaking but there’s not a great deal wrong with it – in most cases it’s mutually beneficial to both clubs involved, as well as the player (an example you missed when going through the United players to have been out on loan is Jonny Evans, whose spells at Sunderland helped him develop into arguably the best young centre-half in the country while also helping the Mackems gain promotion to the Premier League and then stay there).

  2. Michael Wood says:

    The farce of the loan system is the fact that so many clubs buy into it.

    On the whole if club are loaning players in order to achieve success then the massive majority of loans fail and the results of that failure is that any money spent on the loanee player is wasted when compared to the idea of blooding one of the borrowing team’s own players.

  3. Rob says:

    @Nick – As you’re a Manchester United fan, I would expect that you’d disagree, as the loan system disproportionately favours bigger clubs.

    “in most cases it’s mutually beneficial to both clubs involved,” – taken in isolation, each loan is yes, but that’s an incredibly short term way to look at it. And let’s take the case of Man United “parking” Foster at Watford for two seasons. Watford get the benefit of treating a million pound goalkeeper as their own, despite not being able to afford him, but once relegated out the top flight, they suddenly have a gaping hole in their team, and need a replacement. It artificially skews the Championship in favour of which clubs have the best relationship with Premiership managers.

    I didn’t ignore Jonny Evans, yes, he’s had a year and a half at at Sunderland, but I woudn’t consider starting less than half the games this season as “making it”.

    I also didn’t bring up Ron-Robert Zieler. At 21, he should be playing games, or at least reserve games, but how many games did he get at any level last season, considering he was behind Van Der Sar, Kuszczak, Foster, Heaton and Amos in the pecking order. That’s the side effect of United’s quantity over quality approach when it comes to young players – hoover up as many as possible, and if they don’t make it at United, they don’t make it at United. But the best thing for players is playing games, and players like Zieler would be a lot better off plying their trade in the lower leagues, than being sixth choice at Old Trafford with an occasional loan to somewhere like Northampton for a game or two if they’re lucky.

    @Michael – Very much so. In that respect the smaller clubs are just complicit in their own oppression, but what can they do? The current system encourages top clubs to stockpile youth players. Twenty years ago, Manchester United had 30 players under professional contract, this season they had 57. Considering only 14 went out on loan, how can you give all the other 43 regular football?

  4. kruador says:

    The stockpiling is due to the transfer window. The big clubs buy up lots of players simply so that they have cover available – if they send them out on short-term loan they can recall the players after a month with 24 hours notice.

    The solution is simple. Scrap the transfer window. That prevents the stockpiling because clubs can then buy in cover when they need to. Smaller clubs are in a better position because you can say no to a purchase – you cannot refuse a recall.

  5. Michael Wood says:

    Having watched a club fall down three divisions in ten years often with loan players making up the meat of the squad I’ve come to the conclusion that the kid from our reserves is a better bet than the kid from Manchester United’s juniors.

    Which is not to say that technically gifted footballer can’t be got from the top clubs but – as Blackpool prove – so much of being a good member of a football team is about things other than your technical gifts.

    There are exceptions to the rule but generally I’d think that you get more from a player who has committed to a long term future at your club than you do someone who knows he has an escape route and the more than you get in commitment is in excess of what you get from someone with better technical skills.

  6. Rob says:

    @kruador – the stockpiling has nothing to do with the transfer window – it’s just a handy excuse for the clubs. No club has ever used more than 40 players in a season (and the closest to it was Barry Fry fannying around at pre-transfer window Birmingham). Even with their attitute to the early round of the cups, Manchester United only used 32 players this season.

    @Michael – although in Blackpool’s case, they had their full quota of other team’s players on view (Leicester’s DJ Campbell, Villa’s Barry Bannan, Swansea’s Stephen Dobbie and Everton’s Seamus Coleman). That Cardiff didn’t (only Kelvin Etuhu was on loan), owes a lot more to their transfer embargo, than anything else.

  7. I’m going to defend the loan system here. Not because I think it’s beneficial to the top teams, which it probably is, or even the players in question, which it definitely can be, but simply because of the massive positive effect its had on my own team, Rochdale.

    Being within such a short distance of so many big clubs, with expansive ‘hoover’ scouting systems (Man Utd, City, Bolton, Liverpool, Blackburn, Everton), quality young players are thin on the ground here. Let’s face it – Man Utd are going to stockpile players regardless of whether there is a loan system or not. At least by utilising this system, we can access ‘talent’, which in a more equitable footballing world we would have more access to anyway. The way I see it, it’s either we get good youth in on loan or we don’t get it at all. I would rather have the former.

    That’s not mentioning how positive it can be for players too. Of our current squad, Chris Dagnall, Chris O’ Grady, and Marcus Holness all joined initially on loans; previously, Grant Holt, Rickie Lambert, and Adam le Fondre all resurrected their careers at Rochdale after successful loan spells (I’m sure you’re aware of their exploits now). Marcus Hahnemann certainly found his loan spell at Rochdale instructive, as he has said in interviews, it saved his career. (from the Independent) “It was such a contrast to reserve team football there,” he recalls. “At Rochdale every game was life or death to the 3,500 fans. You felt real pressure, real adrenaline. It was great.”

    The point I’m making is that football is one of the least equal playing fields of any industry; (where else can you find businesses willing to employ staff NOT to play, simply to deprive other businesses of their talent?) This isn’t going to change anytime soon. As long as it doesn’t ruin the integrity of the competition (as far as I’m aware there ARE limits to loan players in all leagues), loans – including season-long loans – have a place in football.

  8. William Abbs says:

    We could also consider how going out on loan affects the life of the player. FourFourTwo ran an excellent piece a few months ago about how lonely and stressful it can be for a footballer to up sticks and move to another part of the country for a few months, just to get a game. Of course, I’m talking more about lower league players here, as was the article in FFT, but it’s worth remembering what some footballers are risking when they go out on loan. They’re leaving behind their wives, girlfriends, kids, mates, and setting up home in a hotel for weeks, maybe months, with only a few DVD box sets for company – and often no contract at the end of it. For a player outside the Premier League in the last year of his contract, the offer of a loan deal must be a source of both hope and apprehension.

  9. dk says:

    If there were no loan system it would mitigate against the hoovering up of young players. Firstly, these ‘big’ but debt laden clubs get income from these arrangements, forcing smaller clubs to contribute to the overblown wages they pay to secure these yougsters.These youngsters would be unlikely to be able to negotiate similar contracts directly with smaller clubs. Secondly, loans allows big clubs to relieve some of the internal pressure of having loads of players with very little meaningful football to play. Thirdly, if the system prevented the bigger clubs hoovering up local talent there is a greater possibility of the smaller clubs benefiting from the bigger transfer fees if they do make the big time after an apprenticeship in the lower leagues. The current hoovering up has reduced this trickle down process of wealth sharing.

    The situation can be fairly easily resolved by limiting sqad sizes at all levels

  10. CTT says:

    @Michael Wood

    Your lot should probably stop signing ex-Huddersfield goalkeepers. Simon Eastwood is available on a permanent transfer now by the way.

    Go on, you know you want him…

  11. Mick says:

    I hate the loan system. One of the reasons you identify with “your” club is “your” players. Over time, you learn of their strengths, weaknesses, foibles and character. You even give them nicknames(not always good)as the bond strengthens. Last season I watched upwards of a dozen – quite a few upwards I think but can’t be bothered to check – players turn up on loan. Some stayed for a couple of months, some for a couple of weeks. Some managed more than a dozen games, some warmed the bench for a couple of weeks. And this at a club with average gates of 25000.

    Now, the Chairman probably thinks it’s great not having to fork out for your own squad when you can fill it with players not good enough for someone elses, but the bonds stretch, they weaken and they break. If you’re turning up and you recognise about as many players in the opposition team as you do your own without the aid of the programme, then you start to think – what’s the point? What’s the point of investing time, money and emotion in a collection of players here today, gone tomorrow and replaced with another anonymous bloke who’ll be gone before you recognise him either. They don’t care, they’re temps ffs, why should they? So why should you?

    As a result, for the first time in a decade the ST didn’t get renewed. I think it’s borderline cheating.

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