There are now 166 Premier League players out on loan from their parent club. Laura Jones asks whether the players are benefiting from the loan system?
Michael Hector’s face when he signed for Chelsea last week was about as happy as a wet weekend in Bognor Regis. Most people would think that signing for the Premier League champions would surely raise a smile but looking at his status, nothing has really changed for him. He may technically be a Chelsea player but he will be immediately loaned back to Reading for the season.
Hector is one of 33 players Chelsea have loaned out to other clubs this season. It isn’t a new phenomenon for Premier League clubs to hoover up young players whose backsides never get to grace the varnish of the first-team bench. The question is do these players and the parent clubs benefit from this loan system?
Of the 166 Premier League players loaned out this season 77 are currently playing in the Football League (36 in the Championship, 26 in League 1 and 15 in League 2).
For Hector, being on loan isn’t a new concept to him. Since 2009 he has been loaned out by Reading 11 times. Young players who need to develop and gain experience benefit greatly from the loan system as it gives them game time and the knowledge of playing alongside seasoned pros. The loan system also benefits those coming back from long-term injury but what about the players who are not quite so young and have already been loaned out numerous times?
Scott Sinclair springs to mind. As a Chelsea youngster, he was loaned out six times until he was sold to Swansea, where he excelled. The lure of a bigger club led him to Manchester City where he languished in the backrooms only to emerge briefly covered in cobwebs and dust. Sinclair’s career faltered and his parent club again loaned him out.
Who benefited from his move to Manchester City? Sinclair didn’t because he wasn’t playing consistently and the club didn’t either because he was an overpaid resource that didn’t even make the bench.
Although he is still a young man, at the age of 23 Hector should be establishing himself as a regular first-team player but, realistically, what are the chances of him doing this at Chelsea? He has been overlooked this season by Reading for more experienced signings, Anton Ferdinand and Paul McShane.
So what will this loan do for him? Chelsea do need to replace the ageing defence but I suspect they will be scouting for established world-class defenders before calling on a player not registered in their 25-man squad. Will Hector become like Sinclair? A bit-part player who will eventually be sold on to a smaller club?
Even players who are succeeding in the loan system, like Chelsea’s Patrick Bamford, must wonder whether they will ever get the chance in the first team of their parent club.
Jose Mourinho told Hector he will be keeping an eye on his progress at Reading this season but with a squad of 25 and 33 players also out on loan, you have to wonder how much attention Hector will receive.
Better to be a big fish in a little pond than be a Chelsea loanee?
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