Norwich City were made to pay for loan deals

Chris LakeyA staggering 25pc of Norwich City's playing budget for their disastrous relegation season was spent on the controversial loan system. A grand total of 16 players came and went on temporary deals last season at a cost of around �2.5m - or half the club's losses for last season.Chris Lakey

A staggering 25pc of Norwich City's playing budget for their disastrous relegation season was spent on the controversial loan system.

A grand total of 16 players came and went on temporary deals last season at a cost of around �2.5m - or half the club's losses for last season.

The playing budget, which also includes backroom staff, came to a total of �10.5m, but it is unlikely that the loan system will be exploited in quite the same dramatic fashion as it was by Glenn Roeder and Bryan Gunn.

The figures are revealed in City's annual report, which landed on shareholders' doorsteps yesterday and which showed the club made a loss of �5m last season to take its debt to around �23m.

What makes the loan costs look even worse was that around a third of the loan players - Troy Archibald-Henville, David Carney, OJ Koroma, Chris Killen and Adrian Leijer - barely started any league games, if at all.

But the biggest accusation is that loan players didn't have the club's best interest at heart and, as relegation loomed, were not perhaps giving as much as a fully contracted player would have done.

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Alan Bowkett, who took over as chairman in the summer, admitted he had seen the failings of the system with his own eyes.

"It is a tool, and looking from the stands as I did last year one had mixed reactions," he said. "I was delighted for Leroy (Lita), I shouted for him like everybody else, and you looked at some of the other loan players and you thought, 'you are just getting your cheque'.

"So I think you have to rely on your football club manager to make sensible choices. I know it is very easy with hindsight, but I think former managers would probably agree that some of our loan players were not the most desirable on the street."

Paul Lambert has restricted himself to three loan deals since coming in last August: two of them, Russell Martin and Anthony McNamee, have been made permanent, with goalkeeper Fraser Forster unlikely to be available for sale.

"What I would say is that loan players can be very, very effective to a football team," said chief executive David McNally. "Fraser Forster is an example. I think he has been immense for this football club so far this year, and long may that continue. I think that's a clever example of how loan players can help the player and help the host club, in this case Norwich City, because it is working out really well for us. We need to careful about having too much of a go at loan players generally.

"The biggest problem they give you of course is they go home and you start the season with nine senior professionals."

Lambert has to operate against strict financial guidelines, but City's top brass insist they have never stood in his way when it comes to transfers and say the finances don't impact on his work.

"It has no impact on him whatsoever," said McNally. " Throughout our time together the chairman, myself and Paul, we have worked very closely, everything is clear. Even if things aren't particularly rosy in the garden, everything is absolutely clear and we are all on one side.

"Paul has a budget and he is working towards that budget. The budget does reflect that of a Division One club, as you would expect, and he has a couple of positions that he would like to strengthen in an attempt to make the team more competitive this year and indeed to be even more competitive next year, so he is looking at it in the long term. There are certainly no plans to bring players in just for the remainder of this season. It's a long-term move.

"But we have given him everything that he has asked for."

Bowkett added: "Every player that he has wanted to sign we have been available and supportive to sign, and whether we delivered or not was not because of constraints on budget it was because Paul felt at the end of the day he was the wrong individual - or we got the player.

"As he explained it to me he is shopping in the market of people he wants to develop and be Championship footballers with a desire to play for the club and he is not shopping in the market of mature, established players.

"We can see the examples on the pitch every week now with some players who are just playing out of their skins now."

The intention, clearly, is for promotion this season - but there is a safety valve.

"Being sensible businessmen we have prudently forecast being in this division for two years - and that is the forecast we have shared with our lenders and we have their support on that," said Bowkett. "I don't want to be here for two years."