I woke up in a cold sweat last Sunday night, having watched West Bromwich Albion demolish Wolves in the Black Country derby earlier that day. I suddenly became anxious that if Mick McCarthy were to lose his job, the next Wolves manager may well wish to recall Adlene ‘Pep’ Guedioura and George Elokobi from their loan spells at the City Ground.
After extensive research I discovered that whatever happens at Molineux we will be keeping Guedioura until the end of the season. After his Zidane-esque performance against Watford, I’m sure this will be a source of great encouragement for Forest fans.
Another reason to be cheerful is that Danny Higginbotham, Scott Wootton and Greg Cunningham are also here for the remainder of the season. However, after 28 days, George Elokobi could well be recalled by his parent club. This is because we signed him on an ‘emergency’ loan.
Correct me if I’m wrong but, in this case, the use of the word emergency is probably something of an exaggeration. An emergency is when your head is rolling down a dual carriageway and you’re hopelessly chasing after it with a sewing needle in your hand. Last season, Cardiff City were signing ‘emergency’ players just to polish Craig Bellamy’s boots. It made a mockery of the whole system and, to some extent, the Championship itself.
And that’s not a dig at our Welsh comrades, but rather a realisation that the whole transfer system is fundamentally flawed. The emergency loan idea is simply a half gnawed tail bone that Championship clubs have been tossed to pave over the cracks left by the ill thought out transfer window.
It is a concept that helps Premiership Clubs unload unwanted or inexperienced players; reducing their astronomical wage bills and leaving a host of Championship clubs to fight for the scraps. Not to mention the fact that these loan signings can be hauled back to their owners at the click of the mighty Premiership Club’s fingers.
I personally think Forest should try and cling onto George, the colossal left back, regardless of the rules. Once the 28 days has passed, the club should reject all calls and hide him in the trophy room if someone from Wolverhampton pulls up on the car park. They can have him back when the 93 day emergency loan is completed.
93 days is an amount of time that has quite clearly been plucked out of the air and scribbled onto the back of the fag packet that the whole transfer system was written on. It means that clubs have to carefully manipulate the loans so that they are not left short either at the end of the season or during the playoffs.
All this means that the clubs who get promoted and relegated may not have a better team than their rivals; they may simply have the most loan players left available by the time the end of the season comes around. This, in my opinion, takes something away from the magic of Football.
So far – and we are only two weeks into the emergency loan window being open – there haven’t been as many ‘emergency loans’ as in previous years, but I’m certain they will play their part in both promotion and relegation battles before the season is out. Besides, ‘normal loans’ have been used as frequently as ever before.
This season, every single Championship club has signed at least one player on loan, and who can blame them? With Financial Fair Play regulations forthcoming and budgets tighter than ever before, being able to secure the services of a top class player, with no long term financial implications, is the perfect solution to a Championship club’s problems.
In terms of bringing loan players in, Forest are ahead of the game this season. With a potential restructure of the squad due to take place in the summer, it would have been foolish to panic buy during the January Transfer window when you can simply loan players of Premiership quality.
The impressive performance against Watford was largely due to the four loan players Steve Cotterill drafted in, and it could be these same loan players who keep us up. Guedouira, in particular, looks a class above this division. I would probably pay double for my season ticket if I thought he might be here next season, but in reality a player of that calibre is only available to us because of the existence of the loan market.
It may seem hypocritical for me to be slating the current system on one hand, and applauding Forest for signing so many loan players on the other. Unfortunately, whether we agree with it or not, the effective employment of loan players will be vital in the quest for Championship survival.
I think what I’m really trying to say is that we need to be realistic about what the Championship has become. The term ‘emergency loan’ is an attempt by the powers that be to dress up the fact that borrowing Premiership players is an integral part of Championship football. Furthermore, the whole idea has been invented because of the crippling restrictions that the transfer window creates.
And the result of all this is that Championship clubs will live or die by the strength of their connections, the whims of premiership cast-offs and the form of players who are only temporarily part of the cause. This does not sit well with me.