I watched a few cup games on TV over the weekend, including the Exeter City-Liverpool and Hearts-Aberdeen games. There was a huge juxtaposition between the two Liverpool goalkeepers on show, Adam Bogdan (28), who had a nightmare for Liverpool against Exeter, and loan-ee Danny Ward (22), who was Aberdeen’s top performer against Hearts.
Within a day Jurgen Klopp recalled Ward from Aberdeen, who I’m sure will now become first deputy at Anfield. Six months ago Ward was not part of first team plans at Liverpool, who wanted Bogdan to be deputy to Mignolet. Ward took his chance, played in Europe and became a fans’ favourite at Aberdeen.
Without this loan, I’m sure Ward’s profile at Liverpool would be well below its current level. This is a great example of why you put players out on loan. Players sitting in the stands, or playing youth or reserve football, will find it very difficult to progress.
The other aspect of Danny Ward’s Aberdeen experience is that he was hooked back home after a live TV game. With the sheer number of players out on loan, I often wonder how much scrutiny of their progress parent clubs are able to deploy. Especially if it’s Celtic sending a player to Norway. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Ward’s performance being on TV at the critical moment when Liverpool were pondering their reserve keeper position had a bearing on his career development.
For some clubs, appropriate scrutiny of players out on loan will be practically impossible (Chelsea list 30 players on loan at the moment).
If we extrapolate the way large clubs harvest players, there’s a good possibility loan players will make up the bulk of transfer activity across football going forward. Teams like Aberdeen should be using their Danny Ward experience to demonstrate what a good place they are for English Premier League teams to send players. I know a couple of years back there was some apprehension that one Scottish club were making inroads into Newcastle United’s misfits, but some cunning campaigning put paid to that.
All clubs need to learn how to feed off the squads of others, while managing the development of their own talent, not yet ready for a place in the first team. Those who do this well will flourish. Club partnerships will be the next big story in football, they will change the balance of power. At the moment there is little discernible pattern to how and where clubs loan players. This will change as clubs try to replicate the experiences of Danny Ward and Jason Denayer. Partnering with others, both up and down the food-chain, looks like the biggest efficiency gain in the game today.
Delighted at the genuine anticipation ahead of our next Scottish Cup game, which will be against either East Kilbride or Lothian Thistle. It’s a great story for grassroots football, no matter if it’s played in the Lothians or Lanarkshire.
Anyone surprised that lot were hauled into court this week by someone else looking to be paid? What a way to run your business. We know how the story will end.