The loan system is something that caused a bit of a stir amongst everyone this season including fans, managers and journalists. The loan system is becoming more regularly used in modern football, especially with clubs who may have cash flow issues or don’t have the megabucks to compete and the highest level.
In Rangers’ case, it has worked pretty well in recent years. With the likes of Allan McGregor going out on loan to St Johnstone and Dunfermline, then coming back to force his way into the side under Paul Le Guen and becoming a stalwart for the club over a number of years. Most notably, the run to Manchester in 2008, where he was at the heart of it for such long spells before falling victim to injury, which cruelly forced him to miss the showpiece event in Manchester against Dick Advocaat’s Zenit side.
He isn’t the only one that the loan system at the club has benefited; you could argue that Charlie Adam was also loaned to St Mirren – where he had a great spell – becoming one of their most important players, and coming back, like McGregor, and forcing his way into the first-team picture on a regular basis under Paul Le Guen and Walter Smith, to an extent.
Obviously, there has been loans at the club that haven’t worked out: Amdy Faye, Francis Jeffers, Jerome Rothen and Federico Nieto are the ones that immediately spring to mind.
But, that is something that will happen to any club; clubs will always get stung and make some poor signings, it's just the way football is.
The use of the loan system is one that is becoming more and more pertinent in today’s marketplace. It’s a system that new manager, Mark Warburton, uses and he has used to great effect – not only at Rangers but also at Brentford. In his time at Griffin Park, the he used the loan system to very good effect. Most notably, Alex Pritchard, who he had on loan from Tottenham, of course.
He had two other loanees at Brentford at that time, Chris Long from Burnley, and Jon Toral, a Spanish midfielder from Arsenal – who both contributed considerably to their push into the top six last season.
As we know, he has used the loan market this summer to bring in three new faces to his squad – and helped bring on a player who went out on loan last season in the shape of Barrie McKay. Nathan Oduwa is on his second loan spell after spending some time on loan at Luton last season. And Dominic Ball is in the same boat after spending time at Cambridge United. Gedion Zelalem, on the other hand, is on his first loan spell, so all of the guys are at different stages in their respective developments.
Barrie McKay is showing everyone how a good loan spell at the right club, and coming back to a manager who is willing to help progress his talent can help a young player. At Raith Rovers he was perceived as being lazy and unwilling to do the dirty side of the game, and when the game got a bit physical – he would go missing. He even said in a recent press conference, that being on loan showed him a different side of football and how lucky he had it at Rangers.
Now, under Warburton, he has come back, and he certainly looks a far better all-round player than he did before he left for the loan spell at Stark’s Park. He, to many people’s surprise, including my own, has been one of the team’s outstanding performers this season – and seems like a boy re-born under the current management team.
McKay’s experience is one that guys like Luca Gasparotto, Ryan Sinnamon, and Andy Murdoch, in particular should look upon and try to emulate with regards to their future going forward.
There are many examples on both sides of the fence, but it shows the loan system is a good one to use and it helps build a network between certain clubs. But in these times, especially in Scottish football and at Rangers, the loan market, in or out, should not be sneered at our derided. Everyone should embrace it and take on board the advantages that it brings to both the clubs and the players involved.
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