Five asides: Loans system; rolling subs; League gap closing; Tough Championship; Chris Whelpdale


1: Loans system is not ideal, but it does serve a purpose

One of the side effects of the big clubs' stockpiling of talent is that the majority of their youth academy graduates cannot get a game. Thus the January scramble to acquire the brightest and best on loan. Managers like Brendan Rodgers, Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy are hoping to replicate the success Bolton had with Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, and Rodgers himself did with Fabio Borini and Scott Sinclair (now signed permanently). For their part the players are hoping to advance their careers as Wilshere and Sturridge did. In an ideal world the loan system would not be necessary, as it does create some iniquities and tends to favour the better connected managers, but rather this than seeing the likes of Josh McEachran rotting in the reserves.

2 Penalty specialist Watson poses a rolling question

Roberto Martinez's decision to bring on Ben Watson to take Wigan's late penalty at Stoke was a bold move, and a thought-provoking one. At junior levels of the game there are rolling substitutes; what's to stop a team having a specialist who comes on to take a set play, then goes off again? Or a tall lad, good at heading but not much else, who comes on for corners? In hockey, GB's Calum Giles used to come on for short corners, then go off. The rules were changed to stop him.

3 Gap closing between the Premier and Championship

The year ends with none of the promoted clubs in the Premier League's bottom three, none of the relegated clubs in the Championship's automatic promotion places and only one in the play-off zone. I hope and believe this reflects a stronger Championship rather than a weaker Premier League.

4 West Ham and Leeds find how tough a league it is

That the Championship is an extremely competitive division was underlined by Saturday's results, notably West Ham's loss at Derby and Leeds' 4-1 defeat at Barnsley. The latter is the type of result which gets managers the sack but I hope Ken Bates shows patience with Simon Grayson.

5 Ballsy Whelpdale shows real commitment

If ever a man had an excuse to skip a couple of matches and enjoy New Year's Eve it was Gillingham's Chris Whelpdale. Instead, four days after needing five stitches in his scrotum after a tackle on his tackle at Crawley Town on Boxing Day, he was back in action. Protected by a jockstrap and "lots of padding", Whelpdale played the whole 90 minutes of Gills' 2-1 defeat at Dagenham on Friday. Good luck to him today against Aldershot.

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