Don’t assume transfer action has finished
With the transfer window having closed at midnight last Friday, the 20 Premiership clubs now know exactly what their squads will look like, at least until 31 December.
With the transfer window having closed at midnight last Friday, the 20 Premiership clubs now know exactly what their squads will look like, at least until 31 December. But for Football League clubs, the picture will continue to change all through the autumn, as the 'window' for emergency loans opens this weekend.
This year, deadline day was relatively quiet as far as Championship clubs were concerned. Yes, Charlton brought in a couple of players on loan and Palace loaned one in and one out, but for the most part the deadline deals involved Premier League teams. And I suspect this is because Premiership managers were reluctant to send fringe players out on loan prior to the window closing. I do fully expect there to be a great deal more activity involving Premier League players joining Championship clubs over the next month - and City supporters should certainly not assume that Norwich City's squad list of 30 professionals will remain unchanged until Christmas.
We did make enquiries about a number of Premier League players leading up to the window closing last weekend, but sadly none of these came to anything - not through being unable to agree financial terms, but rather because their managers simply would not let them out. Loans may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they are entirely within the rules and the impact that loan players can have is indisputable. Darren Huckerby's explosive arrival here on an emergency loan in autumn 2003 is just one of many examples.
I was asked on Radio Norfolk on Saturday whether I was a fan of the transfer window. Whilst being very much against the concept upon its introduction some years ago, I have to admit that my attitude towards transfer windows has mellowed somewhat. Whatever the drawbacks of windows, certainly they seem set to stay. And from a club point of view, we simply have to work with the system and maximise the benefits of loans that may be available to us.
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There are a huge number of reasons why Premiership players might, or might not, wish to spend a spell out on loan at a lower league club. They might be a senior pro restricted to the occasional substitute appearance with their club; or a young player struggling to break into the first team; or indeed a player recovering from injury or having fallen out with his manager. The rules allow any combination of financial arrangements - so bigger clubs can subsidise loans by asking for only a small contribution to their wages, or they can demand the whole lot.
When we loaned Joe Lewis to Morecambe, we insisted that the smaller club pay three-quarters of Joe's wages, while Kilmarnock pay all of Ryan Jarvis' salary. Of course, between Football League clubs, the haggling is less material. But when taking an established player from a Premiership outfit, as was the case with Darren Huckerby, even half of a player's wage can far outstrip what any Championship club can afford to pay.
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And that's where the concept of a 'calculated gamble' comes in. This season it is entirely feasible that we will make a loss. Not just an abstract figure on a piece of paper, but hard cash that needs to be found from somewhere. In that environment, spending even more money on a very well paid player to come in on loan, with no guarantee that their arrival will light the blue touch-paper in the way that Darren, Peter Crouch and Kevin Harper did in 2003, is a big gamble.
Our job, as custodians of the Club, is to weigh up the risks and to decide whether to take the gamble or not. And with the plight of clubs like Leeds very much in our thoughts, that's a difficult decision to take.
But if the gamble works, if loan players can be brought in who genuinely add quality to the squad and who gel quickly with their new teammates, then, as Stoke and Birmingham in particular proved last year, loans can materially improve a club's prospects. And with so many players already out injured this season, I suspect that loan players will not be far from Peter Grant's thoughts as we head into this weekend's international break.
On The Ball, City!