Kazenga LuaLua scored for Brighton on Saturday, Seyi Olofinjana for Cardiff and Ben Hutchinson for Lincoln. Aside from the fact that all these teams won, what is the connection? None of them belong to the clubs they represented. They are instead owned by Newcastle United, Hull City and Celtic respectively.
They were three of dozens of Football League players currently appearing on loan, a figure which is rapidly increasing as clubs take advantage of the "emergency loan" market, the loophole created by the League to get around Fifa's imposition of the transfer window. It enables clubs to sign players "on short-term emergency loans during the closed periods in exceptional circumstances." Since it opened on Wednesday several clubs have discovered they have an "emergency".
If that is an exaggeration the reality is that most clubs need loans: they are the only way to manage their ongoing low-level cash crises. Football League clubs have smaller squads and slimmer medical staffs than those in the Premier League but face a 46-match league system.
Which increasingly means a manager's contacts book is as useful as any coaching certificate. When Darren Ferguson was manager at Peterborough he studiously avoided tapping up his father for loans. Since Preston's parlous economic position was made clear to him by new owner Trevor Hemmings he has been on to Sir Alex for Josh King and Matthew James, both of whom played on Saturday. Elsewhere in the Championship Steve Wigley, Keith Millen's assistant at Bristol City, took advantage of his involvement with England under-21s to persuade Tottenham's Danny Rose to move to Ashton Gate on an emergency loan last week. Roy Keane got on the phone to his old Celtic team-mate, Neil Lennon, now the Bhoys' manager, to loan Darren O'Dea.
Everyone is seeking to emulate Ian Holloway, who played the loan market with spectacular results last season. The Blackpool team which won the promotion play-off final against Cardiff City last May included four loanees: Seamus Coleman (Everton), DJ Campbell (Leicester City), Barry Bannan (Aston Villa) and Stephen Dobbie (Swansea).
Having been defeated by loanees, Cardiff's Dave Jones appear to be making a serious attempt to emulate Holloway. As well as the high profile capture of Craig Bellamy he has brought in Jason Koumas (Wigan), Andy Keogh (Wolves) and Olofinjana, who scored against his parent club on Saturday. Given Cardiff's financial travails not everyone is impressed, but it is an obvious way for a club to acquire players they would not otherwise be able to afford.
George Burley, at Crystal Palace, last week added Everton's James Vaughan to a squad that already featured Jonathan Obika (Tottenham) and Anthony Gardner (Hull).
"It is nice to have signed players but sometimes that's not possible and the loan system is a valuable way of strengthening the squad," he said. "It enables you to bring in more quality and it can make a difference."
It appears to be doing so for League One promotion contenders Carlisle United. The heart of Greg Abbott's defence, which kept another clean sheet in winning at morning leaders Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, consists of Lubomir Michalik (loan from Leeds) and James Chester (Manchester United).
Obika is one of five Spurs players currently out on loan, all young players. Their manager, Harry Redknapp, has long been in favour of loaning young players out, pointing to the spells Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard spent at Bournemouth and Swansea respectively as instrumental to their development. Lampard himself, recalling the culture shock of living away from home, and being at a then-lower division club, said: "The experience made me stronger mentally and physically. I went there as a boy and came back a man."
Burley cites the example of Leon Osman. "When I was at Derby I brought in Leon on a three-month loan. He had barely been near the first team. He played regular games for us, went back to Everton and has never looked back."
For his part, Osman played a key role in Derby staying up. It is in the hope of finding a player to make such an impact that many a manager will be working the phones this morning.Reuse content