Best of the loan rangers

David Cuffley Norwich City's victory over Sheffield United in their last home match was well-deserved, but one cause for concern may be the fact that five of the team that achieved it were only borrowed from other clubs.

David Cuffley

Norwich City's victory over Sheffield United in their last home match was well-deserved, but one cause for concern may be the fact that five of the team that achieved it were only borrowed from other clubs.

The Canaries' revival under new boss Glenn Roeder has owed much to his judgment in the loan market with centre-half Martin Taylor, midfielder Matty Pattison, striker Ched Evans and full-back Mo Camara - despite last week's error at Colchester - each playing his part in hauling the side out of the bottom three of the Coca-Cola Championship.

Roeder has also included on-loan Jimmy Smith in the starting line-up in the last two matches and expressed a desire to extend the Chelsea midfielder's stay in January.

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Add to that the fact that two more of the team that beat the Blades - David Marshall and Darren Huckerby - started their City careers with loan spells and it's easy to see the benefits of the system in getting quality players through the door in the first instance in the hope of persuading them and their clubs to agree to a permanent deal.

That approach may have failed, or at least stalled, where Birmingham City's Taylor is concerned, but it has worked time and again for Norwich down the years.

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When Shakespeare penned that famous line “neither a borrower nor a lender be”, he wasn't trying to manage a 21st-century English football club on a tight budget.

One can't help feeling there is something slightly artificial about accumulating points with other people's players, but rules are rules and City cannot be blamed for taking advantage of the system.

Long gone are the days when players like centre-half Bobby Bell - Norwich's first loan signing - and former England centre-forward Peter Osgood were recruited only in cases of genuine emergency.

But if we had to pick a best eleven from the Canaries' loan signings since 1972, who would make the final line-up?

Here, for argument's sake, would be my chosen team in 4-4-2 formation, plus substitutes.

There are one or two who narrowly missed out on the 16 - all those on the bench could just as easily have made the team...

t Chris Woods (goalkeeper): Peter Shilton's understudy at Nottingham Forest as a teenager, Woods joined City, initially on loan, from Queen's Park Rangers. He played the final 10 matches of 1980-81 and although the Canaries lost their relegation battle, the deal became permanent for a bargain £225,000. Woods won promotion with City twice and the Milk Cup. He missed just five matches out of 272 in a five-year stay. He was replaced in four of those games by another loan signing, former England 'keeper Joe Corrigan.

t David Wright (right-back): Yes, he now plays for you know who - and scored for them at Carrow Road last season - but City have not recruited too many full-backs on loan, and Wright was a solid performer and a promotion-winner with Wigan. The Canaries managed to win three and draw one of his five matches during his loan from the JJB Stadium two seasons ago, though a permanent deal never seemed very likely.

t Aage Hareide (centre-half): The Norwegian international defender was a valuable addition to the Canaries' squad in the autumn after promotion in 1982, joining initially on loan from Manchester City, and added much-needed experience to the back four for nearly two seasons, playing 54 times. Went on to coach his national team and was believed to be on the short list for the City manager's job after the departures of both Nigel Worthington and Peter Grant.

t Ian Butterworth (centre-half): Like Woods and Hareide, Butterworth was another Ken Brown loan signing whose move became permanent, for a bargain £160,000, when Brian Clough was persuaded to let him leave Nottingham Forest. As a Coventry player, Butterworth had helped relegate Norwich in 1985, but was forgiven many times over. Played in two FA Cup semi-finals for City and captained them to victory over Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup during his 293 games.

t Danny Granville (left-back): A European Cup Winners' Cup winner with Chelsea, Granville was one of the few successful signings made by former City boss Bryan Hamilton, albeit only for six matches on loan from Manchester City in 2000. He started his career with Cambridge United and his clubs have included Leeds and Crystal Palace. Still proving his worth to the Canaries with the own goal that gave them a point at Colchester last week.

t Kevin Cooper (outside-right): David Bentley may be more naturally gifted, but Cooper gets this role as he was more of a success in his 10 matches at the end of the 2003-04 Nationwide League title-winning season. Cooper had scored for Wolves against City in the promotion play-off semi-final two years before, but was a welcome addition to the promotion-winning squad. Manager Nigel Worthington seemed to baulk at the £1m asking price, so a permanent deal never materialised.

t David Rocastle (midfield): Mike Walker lured stylish former England international Rocastle to Carrow Road on loan from Chelsea in 1997 and they secured four wins and four draws in his 11 matches for the Canaries. Rocastle returned to Stamford Bridge and City's bid for a play-off place eventually ran out of steam. Football was shocked by the Arsenal hero's untimely death at the age of 33.

t Scott Parker (midfield): A bright future looked certain for Parker to judge from his performances when, like Granville, he briefly helped lift City's fortunes under Hamilton during a six-match loan spell from Charlton in 2000. Moves to Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham followed, as well as three full England caps, and if he hasn't truly fulfilled his potential, he is still young enough at 27 to make up for lost time.

t Darren Huckerby (outside-left): Made a bigger impact than any single City loan signing in lighting the fuse for their march to the Nationwide League title in 2003-04. After a three-month loan deal from Manchester City, it appeared a permanent move may be beyond the Canaries' means, but since his £750,000 capture on Boxing Day 2003, has become one of the most popular City players of modern times and a double player of the season winner.

t Kevin Reeves (striker): After an unhappy debut at Highbury, teenager Reeves soon began to show the quality that made him the Canaries' first £1m export, a big return on the £50,000 they paid Bournemouth after his initial loan spell. He scored 42 goals in 133 games in just over three years at Carrow Road, and was capped by England against Bulgaria before his move to Manchester City.

t Peter Crouch (striker): When City signed up loan trio Huckerby, Crouch and Harper, it may have sounded like a Dickensian law firm, but it was a turning point in their bid to return to the Premiership. Crouch's spell with Norwich, when he scored four times in 15 matches on loan from Aston Villa, did as much as anything to revive his career and spark his rise to international status. Moves to Southampton and Liverpool and a place at the World Cup finals followed.

t Subs: David Marshall, Martin Taylor, David Bentley, David Nielsen, David Healy.

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