Plugging a gap for the season ahead or merely just borrowing to boost a meagre squad, the value of a loan signing should never be glossed over. Players tired of picking splinters from their backsides after a frustratingly sustained period on the substitutes bench, wild-eyed youngsters hungry for a taste of first team action and the golden oldies attempting to prolong their career at a level that was beyond them years ago. Loan signings come in all shapes and sizes but no matter what their appearance or age there is still a slow burning debate that hangs around their necks. Should they be permitted to play against their parent clubs?
Before football became riddled with trivial rules and regulations loan players could take to the field against their parent club and no one would bat an eyelid. Obviously in those days the two sides would either come to a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that would see said player remain on the sidelines when they came head to head or simply let him play. Nowadays the ruling (section 7.2 of rule M.6) forbids a loan player to go up against the club that holds his registration. What this means is that clubs can send a member of their squad out on loan and potentially watch him wreak havoc on their rivals. It’s a tactic that has been employed to great effect by Sir Alex Ferguson many times over the years.
Still, the question remains; should they be allowed to play against their parent clubs and is it unfair on loan clubs and adversaries? Looking at it from the parents’ point of view it’s glaringly obvious why they don’t want their player performing against them. As a Newcastle fan I’m well aware of the potential ramifications of that happening. Coming towards the end of the 2003/04 season Lomana Lua Lua was sent on loan to Portsmouth and consequently went onto score a vital equalizer against the Magpies that ultimately cost them a place in the top four that year. I recall my mood at the time was one of anger that Sir Bobby Robson had turned down the chance to keep Lua Lua well way from the Fratton Park pitch that fateful afternoon. But in my haze of anger there was a sense that because Portsmouth had paid to loan him then they should have the right to play him regardless. In this day and age no loan deal passes without a few bundles of cash being exchanged a share of a player’s salary being discussed. In the case of a loan club the reasons as to why their short-term acquisition should be authorized to compete against their parent club is crystal clear.
If they’ve paid for the services of a player, whether it be six weeks or six months, the loan club should be permitted to turn out against the parents. My opinion is it puts the parents’ rivals at a disadvantage when competing against the loan club. The game between Manchester City and Tottenham last Sunday offered one a flagrant example of why this rule is fundamentally flawed. Emmanuel Adebayor, on loan at Spurs from City, was forced to sit out the game at the Etihad Stadium because of that exact rule. That forced Harry Redknapp into a reshuffle playing the slightly smaller Jermaine Defoe in Adebayor’s usual lone striker role. Despite scoring Defoe was unable to physically impose himself on City’s colossal back four also missing two chances after being unable to reach the ball due to his 5ft 7in frame. What is the likelihood that the 6ft 3in Adebayor would have been able to offer more of a presence in the Spurs final third and connect with the opportunities that Defoe couldn’t advantage of? Both the opportunities could have put Spurs ahead in the game and had a huge bearing on the Premier League title race. Adebayor’s absence gave Roberto Manicin’s men a comprehensible advantage that hasn’t been afforded to their rivals in the top half of the league.
Looking at his contributions over the entire season the he has scored nine goals in 19 games during his time at North London being involved in 14 wins and only one defeat. In the six matches he has scored in Spurs have won four striking twice in the 4-0 win over Liverpool. He was also on target in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea whilst two of his six assists came against Arsenal and Newcastle all of whom are challenging in the top six. Is it fair that Adebayor is allowed to have a negative impact on City’s rivals but when it comes to facing them he has to sit in the stands? In the interests of fairness the problems that exist within the loan system and the ‘parent club rule’ need to be revised. It could cost teams the chance to fight for titles, qualify for Europe and could even be the difference between promotion and relegation. One thing is for sure; Tottenham aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last team to be stung by such a prejudiced ruling.
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