Short-term solution or just short sighted?
DAVID CUFFLEY Whoever first issued the advice “neither a borrower nor a lender be” was highly unlikely to have been thinking about football, but there are times when it sounds like a pretty good motto for managers.
Whoever first issued the advice “neither a borrower nor a lender be” was highly unlikely to have been thinking about football, but there are times when it sounds like a pretty good motto for managers.
There is seldom a time now when Norwich City do not have at least one player on loan, or are not desperately trying to get someone in on loan, or else they are talking about farming out one of their own youngsters to get experience with another club on a temporary basis.
At the time of writing, City have two goalkeepers on loan in Jamie Ashdown and Lee Camp, are searching for a suitable club where young keeper Joe Lewis can gain valuable first-team experience - Shrewsbury having been refused permission to take him - and manager Peter Grant was anxiously trying to bring in reinforcements ahead of today's game against Sunderland.
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The advent of the transfer windows has made this scenario inevitable, as one of the few ways in which managers can strengthen their squads between the end of August and the start of January.
No one can blame Grant for trying to recruit loan players, especially with the wafer-thin nature of City's first-team squad.
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But with so many short-term or season-long loans in operation in English football, there is something slightly bogus about the teamsheets that are handed out half an hour before kick-off.
When Crystal Palace defender Bobby Bell became Norwich's first loan player in 1972, it was a genuine emergency, with captain and centre-half Duncan Forbes in the middle of a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
It was, however, something of a rarity in those days, a far cry from the current situation.
It's true that some of City's outstanding players of the past 30 years have begun life at Carrow Road on loan - Kevin Reeves, Chris Woods, Aage Hareide, Ian Butterworth and who better as an example than Darren Huckerby?
But for every success story, there are at least half a dozen loan moves that ultimately serve little purpose. Has Camp really benefited from his three-month deal at Carrow Road?
Can Everton really say that Patrick Boyle gained anything from being at Norwich in such an unhappy period and playing in three demoralising defeats?
While Nigel Worthington struck gold with loan captures such as Huckerby, Peter Crouch and Kevin Cooper in the Nationwide League title-winning season of 2003-04, his reign was littered with temporary signings that simply didn't work out - among them Andy Roberts, Trevor Benjamin, Nicky Southall, Leigh Bromby, Dean Marney, David Wright, Zesh Rehman, Kevin Lisbie and the unfortunate Boyle.
David Healy may, to judge from his international exploits for Northern Ireland, have been a useful acquisition, but did not show his full potential in two loan spells at Carrow Road. Perhaps Premiership capture David Bentley was misunderstood - the talent was certainly there.
Defender Calum Davenport, brought in for 16 appearances last season, may have been a success had he been a permanent recruit.
Jonatan Johansson, pursued for so long by Worthington, was played inexplicably out of position when he finally arrived.
One hopes Grant will have more success when bringing in new faces on a temporary basis between now and January.
But given how much City must have spent over the past four or five years on loan fees and wages, and - Huckerby and Crouch apart - how little they have had in return, I'd be tempted to keep some of that loan budget in the bank and see just what players like Michael Spillane, Lewis, Andrew Cave-Brown - when he's fit - and the Jarvis brothers are capable of.
They are all held in high enough regard to represent their countries in their own age groups, so they must have plenty to offer.
OLD BOYS DESTINED TO MAKE A MARK
There has always been that unwritten law in football that players must score when they face their old clubs.
Robert Earnshaw did just that when he went back to Cardiff with the Canaries in the final away match of 2005-06, and City have been on the receiving end three times already this season.
David Healy's penalty on the opening day at Leeds, Darel Russell's last-minute goal for Stoke last Saturday and Jamie Cureton's opener for Colchester on Tuesday night all lend weight to the theory that goalscorers produce that extra 10 per cent against their former employers.
Cureton's goal, in particular, surely came as no great surprise to anyone at Carrow Road. He may have missed two or three opportunities in the first half, but it was almost inevitable that his name would finish up on the scoresheet.
When one considers that the 31-year-old now has nearly 170 career goals, it's almost criminal that Norwich, having brought him through their own system for five years, benefited from just six of them.
Tuesday night's 1-1 scoreline against Colchester was City's first draw in 23 home matches in all competitions, stretching back more than a year to the same result against Millwall at Carrow Road.
On that occasion, it was Andy Marshall's penalty save from Darren Huckerby that denied the Canaries victory.
Without the benefit of a crystal ball - and writing this ahead of today's game - I couldn't help noticing that another former City 'keeper was due to return today with Sunderland in the shape of Darren Ward.
Three discarded Canaries coming back to haunt them in the space of eight days surely couldn't be possible?