Norwich City and the loan system - no more Tweedledee and Tweedledum

Bury Town's new keeper, Daniel Barden, on loan from Norwich City, in action of his debut against Bas

Daniel Barden on his debut for Bury Town - Credit: Carl Marston

The loans system has changed considerably over the years - as CHRIS LAKEY reports

There was a time when football’s loan system was as much about ‘punishment’ as it was development. 

Back in the day, a player knew his days were numbered when he was ‘farmed out’, the popular description because it implied, probably rightly, that the player was not wanted. 

Younger players tended not to go out: financially it didn’t offer the parent club much incentive, although today it is a business all of its own – loan fees have developed as the system has changed. 

Plus, back in the day, there were proper reserve teams with leagues to go and play in – and those leagues were not exclusively the domain of young players. There were often some experienced brutes waiting to do their worst on a young rising star to ensure he was brought down to earth in more ways than one. 

Today, you’d probably not see a Tweedledee and Tweedledum move which saw Michael Spillane and Chris Martin farmed out to Luton Town for the 2008-09. That was all about the manager not being able to handle them. 

The loans system is now a business: not just to do what City do and develop good players through a footballing sabbatical, make them better, play them and then sell them on for a profit. With extraordinary seven-figure loan fees demanded, it is a business all of its own. Premier League clubs are a commercial operation and need to exploit every opportunity. Which is why they can buy cheaply, ask for loan fees, then sell the player (developed by another club) at a profit. 

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Those young footballers are commodities, but at other clubs, there is a more palatable attitude. 

Take two young Norwich City goalkeepers, Daniel Barden and Archie Mair. Barden was on loan to Bury Town, of the Isthmian League North last season. Mair is currently with King’s Lynn Town. Those loans won’t fund much at Carrow Road; they are about developing the player. 

Alan Lee of ITFC is the new Head coach at Culford football academy Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Alan Lee - the former Norwich City loan striker now involved with Bury Town - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Alan Lee, once of this parish as a loan striker in 2009 and now involved with Bury as a director of youth development - “I don’t like titles, I just help the manager and his team as much as I can” - saw Barden develop at Ram Meadow. 

“You can’t beat the pressure of three points on a Saturday,” he says. “And in non league you can hear everything the fans shout... everything. They grow up quickly.” 

Alan Lee on Daniel Barden

When Barden went to Bury he was raw, a little nervous. Local football brought out the man in him. If you want to sharpen up your mental strength, that’s the place to be. Welcome to men’s football. 

Barden had to win over the people who pay at the gate. And he did. It takes a bit of bravery from the club too: Bury boss Ben Chenery could have got a more experienced keeper, but went with youth. Ditto Ian Culverhouse at King’s Lynn Town, who had the extra issue of promotion to the National League and the higher demands for all his team, let alone a raw teenager on goal. 

Lee says Norwich didn’t just sign the papers and wave goodbye: they followed Barden’s progress week by week, supporting player and club.  

Archie Mair is delighted to see Barnet's penalty end in the stand behind his goal. Picture: Ian Burt

Archie Mair in action for King's Lynn Town - Credit: Ian Burt

Mair, similarly, often has a man in the stands watching him: City loans manager Neil Adams has seen him many times, home and away, this season. Sporting director Stuart Webber too – it might be a pre-season friendly at Fakenham or a league game at Sutton. City are keeping tabs on their players. 

All of which is why Barden has been on the bench of late, with Tim Krul injured, and why he may well be in the firing line this weekend against Barnsley if neither Krul nor number two Michael McGovern, who picked up an injury against QPR on Tuesday, is fit. 

Todd Cantwell in loan action for Fortuna Sittard. Picture: Ivo Delahaye

Todd Cantwell in loan action for Fortuna Sittard - Credit: Ivo Delahaye

Daniel Farke has a well-documented trust in young players – Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis spring to mind, as well as Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell, both of whom benefited from the loans system. 

At the moment, City have 22 players out on loan. Some because they are not in City’s plans – the likes of Tom Trybull, Timm Klose, Philip Heise and Carlton Morris, for example – while many others works in progress – Sam McCallum, Rocky Bushiri, Danel Sinani, Melvin Sitti, Sebastian Soto, Simon Power, Daniel Adshead, Akin Famewo and Mair. 

It’s the latter section, the works in progress, that highlights City’s philosophy of self-sufficiency.  

If Barden does play this weekend, his time at Bury Town will have been beneficial to all concerned, 


Championship: Tom Trybull (Blackburn), Sam McCallum (Coventry)  

Switzerland: Timm Klose (Basel)  

Belgium: Rocky Bushiri (KV Mechelen), Melvin Sitti, Danel Sinani (Waasland Beveren)  

Iceland: Isak Thorvaldsson (IA Akranes)  

Holland: Dan Adshead, Sebastian Soto (Telstar)  

Spain: Gassan Ahadme (Real Oviedo B)  

Germany: Philip Heise (Karlsruher)  

Scottish Championship: Aidan Fitzpatrick (QoS)  

League One: Akin Famewo (Charlton), Carlton Morris, Louis Thompson (MK Dons)  

League Two: Jordan Thomas (Leyton Orient)  

National League: Archie Mair, Simon Power (King’s Lynn)  

National League North: Caleb Richards (Kidderminster)  

National League South: Louis Lomas (Slough)  

Southern Premier: Matthew Richardson (Leiston)  

Isthmian Div One North: Joe Rose (Bury Town) 

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