On a cold Friday night in January after the Royals had just demolished a Watford team managed by Brendan Rodgers, I found myself walking away from the ground chatting to a Watford supporter. Despite watching us demolish his team I found myself having plenty of good words to say about the Hornets and the young players they had in on loan from numerous Premiership clubs. However his response shocked me somewhat when he launched into a verbal attack about his lack of interest in watching the likes of Chelsea and Spurs youngster`s in his side and if he wanted to watch youth team football he would get himself up early on a Saturday morning and go and watch Watford`s youth team.
I probably didn`t think too much of that conversation until Friday when we completed the year long loan deal for Ryan Bertrand. Season long loan deals are something Royals fans are not too familiar with as Steve Coppell was a well voiced critic of the loan system, but if you believe what you read in the press we had better get used to them.
Bertrand would appear to be the first of many loan deals that are going to bolster our squad with talk of Jack Cork, Michael Mancienne, Dorian Dervite and perhaps even Adel Taarabt. Am I the only Royals fan not particularly excited about watching these players? I now see exactly what that Watford fan was on about.
Whilst I am sure that John Madejski is licking his lips at the prospect of getting players in and not having to pay a transfer fee, where does this leave us come the end of the season? If you look at the clubs who opted to go down the route of getting loan players in to fill their squads, they have not been particularly successful – Norwich, Southampton and even Watford.
I`m certainly not against the loan system and think a couple of additions are fine, if in fact Bertrand is one of only a couple long term loans then I am sure it will strengthen our squad long term but please let`s not go down the route of having half our team not even contracted to our club. It was Norwich last season that had to pick their match day squad based on who was in on loan and who wasn`t as they had so many – including Bertrand!
I would much rather watch players like Church, Karacan and Pearce who have come through our academy than some lad Chelsea have stolen from a lower league teams youth set up – even if that meant promotion wasn`t possible this coming season. Many will say that nothing will beat the excitement of promotion in 2006, and they may be right, but I bet watching a team full of youngsters that have come through our academy, being successful, would go close to that.