Friday, February 26, 2010

Loan stars?

As February draws to a close, so too does the brief loan spell of Patrick van Aanholt, who has adeptly filled the void caused by Jose Enrique's hamstring strain, something which, prior to the Dutchman's arrival, looked to have left Chris Hughton with the task of forcing a square peg in a round hole.

However, the sad fact is that the Dutchman's arrival clearly demonstrates that, of the available reserve players we have who might have come in, none are apparently as well equipped as Van Aanholt was to fill the gap. This despite the fact that (as commented at the time) many of our reserve defenders are actually older than the Dutchman.

The challenge of bringing on talented youngsters whilst not hindering the job in hand (in this case the progress of the first team) is one which extends to all lines of work, not just football, but one which Newcastle in particular seem to struggle with. Put simply, our reserves don't seem to go out on loan as much as perhaps they should, and as such haven't picked up sufficient experience to be able to fill a gap left by an injury to a first-team regular.

Whilst Arsene Wenger might be prepared to allow his youngsters the chance to win the Carling Cup each year, the reality is that our back-up team simply isn't good enough to get past the first couple of rounds, and so we fall back on the senior pros to try and mount a cup run.

As Bigger Lad has recently highlighted, without our relegation (and he might have added Big Lad's injury problems), he probably wouldn't have played as many games for us this season - and as a consequence wouldn't have developed as much as he has done.

However, whilst Bigger Lad might have found himself getting more pitch time, the same can't be said for many of our fringe players. Whilst Fraser Forster has been excelling on loan at League-One-topping Norwich, and Kazenga Lua Lua has belatedly gone off to get some action in Brighton, players like Tamas Kadar and Nile Ranger have only seen limited first team opportunities, whilst Ben Tozer, Ryan Donaldson et al have barely had a sniff of first team action.

If Kadar and Ranger are to make the anticipated leap from fringe to first team they need game time to hone their talents, and if they aren't to go on loan this season then the club need to be looking ahead to next year, in the hope that they can find someone willing to help blood our players at a lower level when the consequences of mistakes aren't quite so dramatic.

Thinking back a few years, the benefits to Olivier Bernard of his loan spell at Darlington were clear for all to see as the young Frenchman went from promising youth to someone equipped for the rigours of top-flight football. Similarly, players such as Steven Taylor (Wycombe), Bigger Lad (Preston) and Tim Krul (Falkirk and Carlisle) have all benefitted from first-team action away from St James' Park.

By clinging on to our players so that we can cover some elements of the squad, we actually harm their chances of development, and in doing so undermine our own chances of reaping the rewards in the longer term.


Post a Comment

<< Home