The transfer window system for Premier League clubs was introduced in 2002 before which teams had been free to loan players at any time up until a few weeks before the season end. The arrangement was originally introduced to cover shortages and emergencies but as we all know today it has turned into an important part of developing players and with some clubs, particularly Chelsea (with Vitesse Arnhem) having “feeder clubs” it has become almost an industry. The feeder club arrangement is often used as a “holding bay” for players that would otherwise struggle to get UK work permits but in Chelsea’s case it was also used to hone the talents most famously of Mason Mount, Bertrand Traore, Nemanja Matic, Patrick van Aanholt, etc. The nearest Everton have come to forming such an alliance was the seemingly on-off unlikely partnership first established under Roberto Martinez with Australian outfit, Central Coast Mariners. Suffice to say nothing has come of that!
The current use of the system can see players loaned out for a fee and/ or the borrowing club takes over all or part of the players’ wages. The players usually involved in leaving their parent club fall into several categories and go out on loan for several different reasons:
- Youth development loans whereby a young prospect is deemed to be ready to experience first team football elsewhere to aid their development physically, mentally and tactically.
- Players who have already experienced some first team football at their parent club who have not become regulars and who may improve their standard or fitness level by regular playing time elsewhere
- Players who are fully experienced at first team level but who find themselves out of favour at their parent club. This maybe to put them in the “shop window” for transfers and increase market value or simply to alleviate the wage bill if it is clear they will not feature at first team level. The shop window also assists young players nearing the end of their contracts so that they might secure a move elsewhere and develop a career.
Taking a look back specifically at “development loans out” in the Premier League era, the Blues have had players that fall into all of those categories and I have picked out some of the success stories. The key question of course is how much the loan spells actually helped them?
Leon Osman - not long after the current transfer window was established Leon, a home grown midfielder, played for Carlisle as a 21 year old and Derby County as a 23 year old. It is clear and well documented that upon his return from Derby his loan spells had really helped him as he nailed down a starting spot for many years as a Blue. A 16 year career during which he played 433 times deservedly earning 2 England caps as a 31 year old. A resounding success story of the loan system having helped Everton.
Seamus Coleman - Our bargain buy Irishman made the short journey to Blackpool as a 21 year old. He’d already made his debut for the Blues but faced a fight for the right back berth with long serving Tony Hibbert and England international Phil Neville who was an almost certain starter under David Moyes either at right back or midfield. Although it was only 9 games played for the Seasiders, it marked a significant change and he’d been outstanding in their promotion campaign. He returned to the Blues nailing down a right midfield berth initially before securing his favoured right back position which he holds to this day. 356 first team appearances and counting, a real success story of a loan coming good!!
Ross Barkley - Locally born midfielder Ross made his debut under David Moyes as a 17 year old in 2011. He joined Sheffield Wednesday as an 18 year old making 13 appearances and scoring 4 goals and had a less successful 4 game loan at Leeds United as a 19 year old. Then Leeds manager, the outspoken Neil Warnock said of his time there “I had him on loan at Leeds, and you could never rely on him. You couldn’t give him an opposition player to pick up”. On his return to parent club Everton he really established himself under Roberto Martinez making 179 appearances in total for the Blues and gaining international recognition with England. His loan spell certainly at Sheffield where he regularly played and built up his physicality and who knows, the unkind words of Warnock may have helped him realise the need for a stronger work ethic. A success story for the loan spells?
Mason Holgate - Yorkshireman Mason made his debut for Everton as a 19 year old under Ronald Koeman and although not a regular over the next two seasons he managed 42 appearances before he hit a stumbling block under then manager Marco Silva and was loaned out to West Bromwich Albion. At the Hawthorns he excelled at right back in 19 appearances. He returned with confidence making 63 first team appearances over the next 2 seasons, largely in his favoured centre back position. More than most, as one of our longest serving players, he has probably suffered from having to impress 6 different permanent managers during his time and being played in multiple positions. Although this current season has not been good for him it is recognised that the loan spell with the Baggies certainly helped him. 116 games and counting for Holgate. A success.
Jonjoe Kenny - 24 year old locally born right back Jonjoe made his debut for the Blues as a 19 year old and has since made 51 appearances for his boyhood club. During that time we have seen him loaned out twice as an 18 year old to Wigan Athletic (7 appearances) and Oxford United (17 appearances) and also more recent loan spells at Schalke in the Bundesliga (31 games) and Glasgow Celtic (14 appearances). Perhaps Jonjoe’s experience of loans is the most varied in that his early loans helped him with the physicality and the later periods, especially at Schalke have given him valuable game time. A moderate success in the loans market.
Anthony Gordon - still only 20 years old, local forward Anthony made his club debut as a 16 year old in the Europa League and 2 years later his Premier league debut. Only 28 first team appearances so far but clearly still developing into a fine player. His experience of the loan market involved 11 appearances for Preston North End in a disappointing spell where he did not get the chance to start matches regularly though the exposure to the hurly-burly of the Championship may have been an eye-opener. Still early days and thankfully he is getting some starts under Rafa Benitez. It looks likely that he has turned a corner. A real example of developing in and around the first team rather than going on loan. As stated in the film bearing his name we think it might be safe to proclaim “Gordon’s alive!”.
Jarrad Branthwaite, recruited from Carlisle United in January 2020, made a few starts for Everton perhaps earlier than he or anyone else had expected. The giant 19 year old centre back was loaned to Blackburn Rovers in January 2021 and made 10 starts, his season being curtailed by an ankle injury in April. If nothing else the physical nature of playing in the Championship will have helped prepare him for hopefully a big future with the Blues. Although he has been strictly limited in terms of opportunity since his return from injury, his loan can be regarded as a success.
Moise Kean, still officially an Everton player of course is a rare example of a player increasing their value whilst on loan, this time to Paris St Germain. After a hugely disappointing spell under 3 different managers and with his transfer value plummeting, Kean was allowed to join PSG and few could have predicted the success he would be in the French capital. 13 goals in 26 appearances shocked every supporter that had seen him struggle to adapt to the Premiership. Now on loan with his first club Juventus and with there allegedly being a buying clause that will represent an increase on our original outlay, his loan was an outstanding success if only in financial terms.
Ellis Simms who is an academy graduate had a good spell last season with then League One outfit Blackpool, scoring 8 goals in 21 appearances (not all of them starts). He helped them gain promotion to the Championship and will have experienced a winning mentality during his spell there. Like Branthwaite, he got injured towards the end of his loan and has only recently regained fitness so is yet to feature for the Blues at any level. Given the success of the loan it can be said to be a success for the Toffees also.
The list of players from the Under 23s who were loaned out but left without playing at all or only a couple of times for Everton is simply and sadly too long to include. Recent players Luke Garbutt and Matthew Pennington featured several times without establishing themselves for the first team and were regularly loaned out, eventually leaving on free transfers so neither had loans that were ultimately successful for the Blues.
In summary, throughout all the considerations about the pros and cons of the loan system it is quite clear that for the development of a young player they MUST play regularly. Swapping a substitute bench at Everton for a bench at a lower league club is not a clever move. Ultimately the loan must also benefit Everton whether that is in terms of readiness for first team football at Goodison, proving fitness or increasing their individual value to the benefit of the Blues. It’s fair to say that the results have been mixed?