Further response to Martin Samuel and Everton's use of the loan system

Alex Livesey

Martin Samuel is at it again, this time defending the inflammatory article he wrote earlier this week.

I wrote a rather angry response on this blog, not just at Samuel but more a general rant at the negative headlines Everton have been the victim of when their progress this year should be one of the stories of the season.

Fair play to Samuel though, he read the comments under his article (some of which were a lot more angry than mine!) and issued a response.

I still disagree with him though.

But in good spirit and fair play I’m going to try and lower the tribalism levels and give a balanced reply:

Firstly, I don’t believe banning the loan system is a silver bullet that will suddenly even out the transfer market.

Samuel says he has criticised the loan system for years, complaining about "the stockpiling of players by major clubs, the whole dodgy area of gentlemen’s agreements and mates lending to mates, and the way football could be, if we would only wean ourselves off this devalued process."

Does he think that full transfers are completely innocent? If anything they should be the focus of more scrutiny given the larger sums of money that exchanges hands for permanent deals.

He also says "Without the loan system, clubs would not be able to stockpile players and transfer fees would come down, meaning Everton might be able to afford the likes of Romelu Lukaku, without it costing the earth."

Can you really see the likes of Chelsea standing aside while teams with fewer resources go ahead and sign a top player?

Yes, some players may choose a lesser side in order to play regular first-team football but most will happily take the higher wages. Lets face it money talks in football and top clubs will try and compensate squad players for their lack of regular action in the form of higher wages, even if their careers stagnate.

There is also all those other, younger players whose careers will suffer without early exposure to first-team football.

Samuel also tries to justify his view by talking about how he has discussed this issue for years. He points out that he wanted Bolton to go down in 2003 instead of West Ham because their team was built around loan players.

However, in his article about Everton he says he wants them to get into the top four. If our team is also built around loan signings, using the same system that was in place in 2003, then why did he want Bolton to go down but Everton succeed?

But this this is where Samuel is clever.

In one part of the article he will criticise, the other he will praise. So when someone picks him up on some of his negative views, he’ll throw the positive ones back as a response.

He did the same with Bolton, saying that he wanted Sam Allardyce to win Manager of the Year but also wanted them to go down.

If you disagree so strongly about Bolton having their side "built around foreign loan signings" why do you want Allardyce rewarded, Martin?

In the Everton article he said that should we reach the Champions League it would be "an extraordinary feat and great for the English game".

Yet further down he says that Everton have been "very smart in exploiting the nuances of the player market"; just like Bolton and their "astute manipulation of temporary transfers".

"Exploited" and "manipulation"; loaded language designed to give a negative impression but somehow absolve him of any criticism.

He then said Everton "runs a shop with its rivals’ stock" and have an "artificially inflated position" because of it.

Samuel can’t make those digs towards Everton yet some justify them by saying nice things elsewhere in the article.

He needs to make his mind up. Otherwise he is hopping between two sides of the fence depending on who is criticising him.

If Everton are manipulating the transfer market then surely we don’t deserve fourth place? If Everton are using a market Samuel has been against for years why is he wishing us well?

However, unlike with the Bolton case there is no real alternative team to root for because our main rivals for fourth, Arsenal, also "exploit" the loan system.

Samuel does talk about this, but way down in the article, unlike his rant about Everton, which is also the subject of the sensationalist headline (more of that later).

Samuel also admitted in his response column that he picked on Everton because the loan system has been a success for them as opposed who have not used it as well, saying: "Well, let’s say I wrote about John Guidetti and Oussama Assaidi at Stoke. The response would be simple. It doesn’t make any difference, these players are peripheral to the narrative of the Premier League season and Stoke are mid-table, affecting nobody. So to draw attention to the issue the loans have to be an extreme case (like Watford last season, or the current situation at Parma in Italy) or be having an impact on a major issue. Isn’t that obvious?"

Yes Martin, but by doing so you’re also indirectly suggesting that loans would be ok as long as no-one is a success with it. If you felt so strongly about the loan system then you SHOULD be writing about other clubs.

What about Lukaku’s performances at West Brom last year? Or Carlos Tevez’s two-year loan at Manchester United and the titles won there? Emmamuel Adebayor at Spurs a few years ago?

Football365’s Mediawatch also picked up on Samuel’s shortcomings and chose two great examples – Jurgen Klinsmann’s return to Spurs in 1998 and Christophe Dugarry at Birmingham in 2002.

I appreciate that as an opinion piece it has to be about current issues, but if he is going to take this holier than thou 'I’ve wrote about this years' attitude when fobbing off angry Everton fans, he shouldn’t pick and choose when to write about it.

By doing so it re-enforces the justifiable belief that he is aiming a cheap shot at Everton and unfairly undermining achievements in order score cheap hits.

But that brings me to my next point.

We have to remember how the football journalism world works. Newspapers and newspaper columnists are there to sell papers and make money. That’s why we often see slightly mis-leading headlines on newspaper front pages, designed to draw attention and make people buy them.

Nowadays in the Internet age it is all about hits. You have to be controversial in order to generate interest and the best way of doing that is to wind people up.

By picking on Everton in the week they beat Arsenal 3-0 Samuel will have known he was scratching a sore point that would get people for angry and therefore get a response. As he is a very good writer he surrounds the inflammatory parts with reasoned argument to try and justify it. But there is no getting around the fact that this is basically a trolling exercise designed to get quick hits, which in turn boosts advertising revenue and pays Samuel’s wages.

That’s the game and how it has worked for years.

Mediawatch quite rightly said that Samuel does give some reasoned arguments about Financial Fair Play and it is an issue to be debated. But that is completely undermined by the need to say something controversial around it in order score hits.

Which brings me onto my next point - the headlines.

In his response article Samuel said: "the foolish paranoia of football fans never ceases to amaze me" in bold at the top of the article.

That comes across as the arrogant dismissal of all those who dared to criticise him just because some of the comments were perhaps ill-conceived and easily argued against.

But in a week where Everton put themselves in with a chance of breaking the top four after decades of looking on from the outside in a division dominated by oligarchs and Sheikhs, can you blame the fans for feeling a little paranoid when they are confronted by headlines like:

"Everton fairy-tale has us hooked - shame it's built on £50m loan sham of Lukaku, Barry and Deulofeu"

A sham?

Samuel later said he did not use that word and I suspect it was his sub-editor that used that headline, again designed to attract cheap hits. But it is Samuel’s by-line, it is his photo at the top of the page, so until the sub-editor comes out and defends himself Samuel has to take responsibility for such a misleading headline.

And while we are on about paranoia, how about this from the same paper in response to Samuel’s articles:

"Everton would be nowhere near Champions League without loan stars like Lukaku"

The article is dross and basically takes away the contribution of loan players and re-creates the Premier League table. It has no real journalistic merit as it doesn't take into account what players would replace those taken out of the team. Or would we play with eight men? Plus it is measured by goals - so if you got two great defenders on-loan it is ok!

All-in-all it is designed to capitalise on anger created by Samuel’s pop and score more cheap hits.  Like those "top ten.." or "you know you were a 90s kid if..." link bait articles you see people pass around Facebook.

The most frustrating thing of the whole process though is that it works, it does generate attention (and therefore revenue) and I’m adding to it by responding!

But there you go….

The post-script to this is that, as Everton fans, we have to accept that some in the media will always have a go when you are doing well.

That’s because when you are doing well you are newsworthy. And although Everton have had plenty of nice stuff written about them in recent weeks, negative stuff gets more attention – as this week has shown.

We should just try and take it as a backhanded compliment, an acknowledgement that we are back on the map, and try and channel our frustration into passionate and vocal backing of the players in the remaining six games of the season.

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