Trust is key as City boss looks for new options

Chris Lakey Leon Barnett has become the eighth player to book into a Norfolk hotel room this summer - but the first to arrive here on loan. The loan market is an area Lambert tries to avoid.

Chris Lakey

Leon Barnett has become the eighth player to book into a Norfolk hotel room this summer - but the first to arrive here on loan.

The loan market is an area Lambert tries to avoid.

Last season there were five loan deals at City - an almost imperceptible use of the system compared to recent previous seasons when City were making significant contributions to the financial welfare of certain local hotel businesses.


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Of those, two - Russell Martin and Anthony McNamee - were simply the pre-emptors of full-scale transfers. Fraser Forster was brought in almost immediately, with Lambert not fancying the calamitous Michael Theoklitos, Ben Alnwick - signed on loan from Spurs by Bryan Gunn - nor Declan Rudd, who was simply too inexperienced to throw into the difficult situation City found themselves in.

Michael Rose joined from Stockport as cover for Adam Drury - perfect timing, because Drury tore his thigh muscle that very week - while Preston striker Stephen Elliott came in for the final weeks of the season as Lambert sought that final push to the top.All five played some sort of role in City's season: certainly, none could be regarded as a flop, particularly if you take into account the very nature of the system.

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Loan players are brought in to help, and the moment the deal is done they test the manager's assessment of their character. In general, the manager would want a player to do for him what they would do for their parent club, or what they do for a manager who's dropped a three-year contract in front of them.

City fans have seen in recent years that the quality of loan player can vary. Leroy Lita, pictured, hit seven goals in 16 starts in a poor team and saved their bacon that season. Antoine Sibierski's two goals from 15 appearances was no return on a hefty salary - all he wanted to do was get back to Manchester.

Neither was cheap, but they proved there are no guarantees where signing loan players is concerned. Get in three or four loan players and the fees that parent clubs are asking might as well be saved up for a permanent signing, who you can more or less guarantee will be more willing to sweat blood for the cause.

Lambert wanted to sign Barnett last season so the fact he remains on his list suggests he trusts him - it's hard to find a fancy dan, no-trier among the previous five, so the assumption is that Barnett is of the same mould.

Barnett helps bring up the numbers in the back four - him, Elliott Ward and Jens Berthel Askou are the only options in the middle, but does he need to strengthen elsewhere?

Money is an issue: ask him about buying players and he just smiles. He won't let on what, if anything, is available, but it's a fair bet to say the club's position in the financial standings isn't as comfortable as it is in the real Championship table.

Fair play to him - there's never been a complaint. But that shouldn't obscure the fact that the lack of some financial punch could have an effect this season.

For example, Lambert has only one genuine, experienced right-back, in Martin, having allowed Michael Spillane to leave for Brentford. He took the chance to play the promising teenager George Francomb, a player he clearly likes, in the Carling Cup tie at Blackburn on Tuesday. But instead of giving Martin a rest, he had to play him out of position at left-back - because the usual number three, Adam Drury, had a little knock and, with Steve Smith still a week or two from returning after an ankle injury, he couldn't be risked.

The left-back situation was unfortunate, but should Martin be injured or suspended, he will need Francomb to have gained an awful lot from the Ewood Park experience to be able to start him in a league game.

His options tomorrow for four backline positions are: Martin, Francomb, Askou, Barnett, Ward, Drury.

In goal, it's John Ruddy, with Rudd and Jed Steer not ready for regular league games and perhaps both in need of a loan of their own.

Lambert is well blessed in midfield, and ensured that David Fox, Simon Lappin and Matt Gill got valuable minutes under their belt to get as close to match fitness as possible by giving them all a start at Blackburn.

Perhaps Lambert is a little shy of bodies up front: Grant Holt and Chris Martin are the established starting pair, but Simeon Jackson and Oli Johnson are Championship newcomers. If either Holt or Martin is injured or suspended - and remember, Martin talked himself into an unnecessary booking against Swansea last weekend - the back-up is still short on experience.

Lambert's problem comes back to money again - good players aren't exactly 10 a penny, but a quality striker doesn't drop into your lap. They cost money, and Lambert doesn't have much to spare, leaving him to act only when needs must. There aren't many spare parts around the City squad because the club can't afford passengers.

City are unlikely to trouble the deal-makers between now and late Tuesday when the window closes, but when the time is right, perhaps in January if City look like promotion candidates, expect him to have another look at his list and pull out another name he can trust.

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