LOAN players… short term signings not wanted elsewhere. They are all rubbish, right? Wrong! Three of our all time heroes from that glorious day in Cardiff were loanees. And another three had been.
It is not the concept of loans that is flawed, it is the selection of personnel just passing through that is the problem. And let’s be honest, Boro have had some real duffers over the years. Some of them you wouldn’t have in a lucky bag. Beggers/choosers and all that.
Here’s a couple of teams I’ve picked from the best and the worst loan signings over the years plus a long list for you to pick line-ups of your own temporary Titans and eight week wasters.
AS we wait anxiously to see if Tony Mowbray dips into the lucky dip of the loan market this week it seems a good time to have a little look back at past forays into the market..
The past few seasons has been marked by largely anonymous temporary transfers who have already faded from memory. Or been consciously erased. Could you pick midfielder Mickael Tavares out of a line-up? Most Boro fans in a quick straw poll in the office couldn’t. One person even ‘down with the kids’ even suggested the head shot he was shown could be “the other one from JLS.” And would you recognise James “Jay” O’Shea if he sat next to you on the bus? Me neither.
But not all loans are instantly forgettable. Some of Boro’s best-ever players have arrived at the club on loan. Half of the legion of legends who claimed historic silverware under the roof at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium back in February 2004 – jesus wept is it 10 years ago already? – were or had been loanees.
In the Carling Cup final starting line-up Danny Mills, Bolo Zenden and Gaizka Mendieta were all on loan deals (with the last two soon to sign up full-time) while Franck Queudrue and Doriva had initially arrived on short term deals. Even waist high wonder Juninho had been at Boro for a loan spell sandwiched between his permanent deals.
Of course when you can afford to pick up the wages that players are on at giant clubs then you get a better class of fringe figure. At various times during the glory years Boro loaned players from the likes of Real Madrid, Lazio and Chelsea. People whose last loan club on the merry-go-round had been Barcelona.
But at other times when money is tight you have to make do, as we did have done under Mogga and Strachan before him and then at various points in the past in the gug-out eras of Lennie Lawrence and Willie Maddren when have-boots-will-travel unwanted journeymen came and went with barely time to unpack their suitcase.
A trawl through the record books by enthusiastic Boro anorak Colin Galloway has come up with a comprehensive list of loan deals over the history of the club. (Incidentally if anyone else has been doing some amateur archiving and wants me to give their work a platform please get in touch… especially in those quiet international weeks.)
The list goes back to what was a very rare temporary registration of Thomas Niblo and Jack Ostler from Newcastle in Boro’s inaugural Football League season, 1899-00. Both deals were quickly cancelled by the authorities and the Scottish duo went back to Tyneside. Those loans were very rare beasts indeed.
Apart from occasional forays into the non-league market – injuries after the March deadline were often covered by borrowing from Bishop Auckland or South Bank or other amateur teams on a non-contract basis so what we know as loans – temporary transfers of professionals – were very rare before the abolition of the old maximum wage and the one sided rules that gave clubs control over player registrations.
Those changes and more expensive binding contracts weighted towards the player led to an explosion in employment mobility and through the 90s the loan system mushroomed. It made it harder for clubs to unload unwanted players and if they couldn’t sell them a mechanism had to be found that could keep them fit, put them in the shop-window, entice a desperate mug punter and hopefully fund at least a slice of their wages.
The development of those trends throughout football and a periodic cyclical lack of cash for signings are the key to marked peaks in Boro;s temporary trading.
Look at Lawrence. He signed 10 loan players in three years – including giants like Dwight Marshall, John Gannon and Anthony Barness, whose only appearance came away at Grimsby in the Anglo Italian Cup – as he tried to patch up his side on the hoof.
In his first year he wanted to plug gaps while he reshaped his squad with real cash. In his last year the money supply was cut-off and there was an air of desperation about his scattergun signing spree.
And in recent years of belt tightening and austerity Gordon Strachan has brought in nine loan signings and Mowbray eight. Strachan’s loans came mainly in his first season when he told the dressing room very early “I’ve only got two players” and then brought in a string of loanees to get him through the season until he could buy his own “men.”
Mowbray has been in a similar bind. With Strachan’s players eating up the lion’s share of the resources he was forced to mix and match and bring in a series of free transfer and largely unsatisfactory loans until the club worked through the bump in the wage curve.
His business this summer – unlike previous close seasons – have all been real deals as he shaped a squad to call his own. But as time ran out there are gaps – including one very big one at the back – and now he is looking to bring in a defender on loan to get him through until January and the chance to bring in a permanent stopper..
Let’s hope he is digging about in the right bag.
Meanwhile, just for fun, here’s a couple of teams I cobbled together from the best and worst examples of Boro’s short term signing. The good one would walk this league. The bad one would get relegated. And it doesn’t even include Caleb Folan. It must be said you could easily get another equally bad one. Christ, we’ve had some duffers.
STEPHEN PEARS: “England’s number one” sang the Holgate – and he almost was. But for a broken cheekbone in a training ground collision with Dion Dublin he may have got the international recognition his form as a fixture at Boro deserved.
But he first arrived as a rookie on loan from Manchester United in 1983 as Malcolm Allison desperately tried to patch up an ailing side.
He made an instant impact. He played 12 games and kept three clean sheets in his first five and was quickly embraced by the fans. So much so that when borassic Boro admitted they couldn’t afford the £80,000 price quoted by United to make the switch permanent, it was mooted that he be bought by public subscription for a club in free-fall, but the fan fund scheme never got off the ground.
DANNY MILLS: The ‘combative’ right-back arrived on loan from crisis club Leeds and quickly slotted into a team that was just about to click.
No-nonsense England man Mills made 37 appearances and clocked up an impressive 10 yellow cards along the way. His form dipped towards the end of the season as it became clear Boro would not match his personal terms for a full-time switch, but he still ended on a high as became a legend who was part of the Carling Cup winning team.
JONATHAN WOODGATE: Boro pulled off a transfer coup as they smuggled Teessider Woodgate past a host of big clubs to unveil him on loan from Real Madrid in August 2006.
Woody had endured an injury ravaged nightmare in Spain and although fully fit was out in the cold. But at Boro he showed glimpses of the form that made him look like the best defender of his generation again as he shackled the Premier League’s big guns while barely breaking sweat.
He played 30 fantastic games on loan while making all his partners – David Wheater, Chris Riggott, Emanuel Pogatetz and Robert Huth – look like world-beaters. His fitness and form persuaded Boro to shell out £7m in a Real deal the following summer.
STEPHEN McMANUS: Although he finished his time at the Riverside as a fringe figure under Tony Mowbray – the boss who had first loaned him then sold him to Boro – his initial impact as part of Gordon Strachan’s great January Jockification was impressively solid.
He was man of the match in his debut and powered home one goal in his 12 games on loan and most thought when he signed properly he was a decent investment.
FRANCK QUEUDRUE: Sacre who? The fiery French full-back was an unknown quantity when he arrived from Lens in October 2001 but he soon had his own song and fans club after showing a passionate – and occasionally rash – desire to “get stuck in.”
The serial card-collector scored on his home debut against Sunderland in a lively stint in which he palyed 28 games, helped Boro to the FA Cup semi-final and secured a popular £2.5m permanent deal.
GEREMI: Cameroon international Geremi was fantastic in a year-long loan from Real Madrid. After arriving in August 2002 he filled the ‘problem’ right wing slot adding width, pace and powerful dead-ball to Boro armoury.
He scored seven goals in 33 starts and Boro wanted to keep him but baulked at Real’s £7m fee so he moved to Chelsea instead.
JUNINHO: The Samba rhythm was slightly muted as the Little Fella arrived back at the Riverside on loan from Atletico Madrid in late September.
Possibly a controversial choice. He was recovering from a badly broken leg and while there were glimpses of magic and four goals in 28 games he was still feeling his way towards a new style to cope with the loss of blistering changes of pace.
It didn’t help that he was played out of position in a badly executed “the hole” and in spluttering team but while Juninho failed to deliver the expected dream-weaving alchemy, he still excited the crowd.
GAIZKA MENDIETA: Mendieta arrived at Boro in August 2003 two years after being Europe’s most expensive player – he moved from Valencia to Lazio for Euro 48m – with two Champions League runners-up medals to his name and having spent the season before as a fixture at Barca.
In his loan season he was sublime, sweeping passes around and linking up superbly with the rest of the midfield. He played 31 games – including the Carling Cup final – and scored twice as he secured a full time deal on a free transfer.
BOLO ZENDEN: The Chelsea misfit midfielder, above left, arrived on loan at the same time as Mendieta and had an equally galvanising effect – more by accident by design.
He started off as solid but unspectacular left winger but an injury to Mendieta forced boss Steve McClaren to switch him inside to a central role where he was a revelation… we know a song about that don’t we? He played 31 games on loan and scored four goals – including the decisive two bootiful second in the silverware success at Cardiff.
UWE FUCHS: The “English style” German agricultural hitman was a football defibrilator, scoring nine goals in 13 starts to spark Bryan Robson’s faltering Premier League promotion charge back into life.
Recommended by ex-England striker Tony Woodcock,then coaching and acting as an agent in the Bundesliga, Uwe was an instant cult hero and there was some raised eye-brows when he wasn’t offered a deal but given what was in the pipeline it was understandable. Still, excellent work that man: the ultimate short term fix.
BENITO CARBONE: Substitute Little Fella Carbone joined Boro in the second half of Steve McClaren’s transitional first season as his parent club Bradford – on the verge of imploding – desperately tried to off-load his wages.
He had already had a loan spell at Derby alongside Ravanelli when he arrived to add a bit of movement and guile up front to feed Alen Boksic and, er, Noel Whelan. He did a good job of linking up with midfield. He played 13 games and scored one goal.
ANDY DIBBLE: Have gloves will travel goalie Dibble – 21 clubs over 23 years – had a solid loan spell at Boro under Colin Todd in 1991 – but that isn’t what most Boro fans will remember him for.
In his second nightmare spell in 1998 he was drafted in from Luton, where he was on a month-by-month deal, to cover for injured Mark Schwarzer and Ben Roberts. He let in four at Forest and five at QPR in a bruising four days that dented Boro’s promotion push and persuaded Bryan Robson to rush out and buy Marlon Beresford.
JOHN KAY: With Boro plunging down the table towards relegation from division two, Willie Maddren moved to bring in future Sunderland journeyman Kay from Wimbledon to plug the holes at right back.
Boro failed to win a single one of his eight games and Maddren had another shot at plugging the gaps and signed Brian Laws instead.
JON GITTENS: Erratic stopper Gittens was strong and fast but not the most gifted with the ball, and as a result was prone to penalty box blunders.
Lennie Lawrence borrowed him from Southampton in February 1992 as cover and he found himself in the team after an injury to Alan Kernaghan and fans watched through their fingers for 12 games as he helped Boro to promotion with a scrambled goal in the final day win at Wolves.
A grateful Lennie then signed him on a thank-you full time deal for £350,000 but realised the risk factor involved then a week later also signed Derek Whyte and Chris Morris. Lennie later admitted that Gittens wasn’t good enough for the top flight and the accident waiting to happen barely got a sniff of Premier League action before being bombed out to Pompey.
SEAN ST LEDGER: Cavalier defender St Ledger was a costly cul-de-sac. Having missed the deadline he signed from Preston in September 2009 with a fixed £3.5m price in January, the Irish international made the high-risk over-lapping central defender role his own, spreading chaos in his wake.
He contributed to getting Gareth Southgate the sack as a previously watertight defence unravelled and one of Gordon Strachan’s first and most cost-effective moves was to invite St Ledger to dinner and persuade him he was homesick for Preston.
DAVID WINNIE: One of the least impressive Lennie’s quick-fix loans, former Scottish Under 21 international Winnie arrived from Aberdeen as the wheels were coming off the boss’s second promotion push.
He played one game and was ripped apart in a 4-0 defeat at Tranmere and was swiftly sent packing.
JAMES O’SHEA: Irish international ‘run quickly down blind alley then stumble’ merchant O’Shea was one of the conveyor belt of loanees that passed through while Strachan was treading water in his first season. He was so anonymous he changed his name from Jay after his first game and no-one noticed for weeks. Two games.
MICKAEL TAVARES: It is telling that in a straw poll of Boro fans in Gazette Towers not one identified a picture of the French midfield plodder, pictured left. The most popular suggestion was that he was “him from JLS”.
Brought in by Strachan from Hamburg on a year long loan in August 2010, the seventies disco song themed headline in waiting left barely a trace in his 13 games before being dropped by Tony Mowbray. He later joined Fulham but did not appear.
ISAIAH OSBOURNE: Another anonymous midfielder who didn’t seem to do anything. Gordon Strachan signed him in November 2009 saying he could “do a job.” He made nine appearances before being recalled by Aston Villa. I saw all of them and honestly can’t remember a thing he did.
ADAM HAMMILL: Step-over, step-over, step-over, drag-back, Cruyff turn, step-over, fall over, run very fast. That sums up Wolves’ winger Hammill’s 10 game loan spell at the fag end of Mowbray’s first full season. He had been brilliant against Boro when at Barnsley so it was very disappointing.
ALEX NIMELY: Boro fans will have seen one brilliant display by Nimely – unfortunately he was wearing a Coventry shirt at the time.
He had arrived at the Riverside from Manchester City in September with a big reputation but his nine game loan spell for Boro was marked by decent approach work but a woeful inability to hit the target.
MARCUS BENT: Strachan’s first signing on a two-month loan deal in October 2009, later extended by a month… why? The much travelled marksman – Boro were his 12th club – played seven times and never even got close to scoring.
Here’s Colin Galloway’s homework: a long list on loans in the modern age. He admits there may be a gap or two. Theer is bound to be some no-hoper that he slipped through the net. Shout up if you think we have missed one.
Feel free to pick better or worst teams or tinker with my line-ups.
1983/84 Nov Stephen Pears GK Manchester Utd (12 games, 0 goals)
1984/85 Oct Martin Thomas GK Newcastle Utd (4-0)
1984/85 Jan John Kay RB Wimbledon (8-0)
1985/86 Aug Pat Heard LM Newcastle Utd (2-0)
1985/86 Jan Eric McManus GK Bradford City (2-0)
1985/86 March Phil Kite GK Southampton (2-0)
1986/87 Dec Ronnie Coyle D/M Celtic (1-0)
1986/87 March David Hodgson F Norwich (2-0)
1986/87 March Steve Spriggs M Cambridge (3-0)
1990/91 Jan Colin Walsh LM Charlton (13-1)
1990/91 Feb Andy Dibble GK Manchester City (19-0)
1991/92 Sept Rab Shannon LB Dundee (1-0)
1991/92 Sept Jon Hewitt F Celtic (2-0)
1991/92 Oct Brian Marwood RM Sheffield United (3-0)
1991/92 Feb John Gittens CB Southampton (12-1)
1992/93 Aug Brian Horne GK Millwall (4-0)
1992/93 Feb Chris Kamara CM Luton (5-0)
1992/93 March Dwight Marshall F Plymouth (3-0)
1993/94 Aug Anthony Barness Chelsea (0-0)
1993/94 Nov John Gannon CM Sheffield United (6-0)
1993/94 March David Winnie LB Aberdeen (1-0)
1994/95 Jan Uwe Fuchs CF Kaiserlautern (13 (2) -9)
1997/98 Nov Jaimie Moreno CF DC United (1 (4)-1)
1997/98 Feb Michael Thomas CM Liverpool (10-0)
1997/98 Mar Andy Dibble GK Luton (2-0)
1999/00 Sept Juninho AM Atletico Madrid (24 (4) 4)
2000/01 Sept Gary Walsh GK Bradford City (3-0)
2001/02 Oct Franck Queudrue LB Lens (28-2)
2001/02 Feb Benito Carbone F Bradford City (13-1)
2002/03 Aug Geremi M Real Madrid (33-7)
2002/03 Jan John Eustace M Coventry City (1)-0)
2003/04 Aug Gaizka Mendieta RM Lazio (30 (1)-2)
2003/04 Aug Bolo Zenden LM Chelsea (31-4)
2003/04 Aug Danny MILLS RB Leeds Utd (28-0)
2006/07 Aug Jonathon Woodgate CB Real Madrid (30-0)
2008/09 Jan Marlon King CF Wigan (9 (3) -2)
2009/10 Sept Sean St .Ledger CB Preston (15 (1) -2)
2009/10 Sept Caleb Folan CF Hull City ((1)-0)
2009/10 Oct Marcus Bent CF Birmingham (3 (4) -0)
2009/10 Nov Isiah Osbourne CM Aston Villa (9-0)
2009/10 Nov Dave Kitson CF Stoke (6-3)
2009/10 Jan Stephen McManus CB Celtic (16-1)
2009/10 Jan Kyle Naughton LB Tottenham (15-0)
2009/10 March James O’Shea RW Birmingham ((2)-0)
2010/11 Aug Matt Kilgallon LB Sunderland (2-0)
2010/11 Sept Mikael Tavares CM Hamburg (13-0)
2010/11 Feb Andrew Davies CB Stoke City (5 (1) -0)
2010/11 March Paul Smith GK Nottm Forest (10-0)
2011/12 Aug Carl Ikeme GK Wolves (10-0)
2011/12 Sept Alex Nimely CF Manchester City ((8)-0)
2011/12 March Andrew Hammill LW Wolves (8 (2) -0)
2012/13 Aug Josh McEachran CM Chelsea (35 (3) -0)
2012/13 Aug Ishmail Miller CF Nottm Forest (14 (11) -5)
2012/13 March Sammy Ameobi RW Newcastle Utd (7 (2) -1)