Fleetwood Town boss calls for end to loan debate

Graham Alexander
Graham Alexander

Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander is concerned an end to the emergency loan system will damage player development and help only the Football League’s richest and biggest clubs.

The Football Association and FIFA came to an agreement last week to extend the system but only for one more season.

Some clubs are hoping to use the extra year to negotiate a continuation of the loan system – the current emergency window closes tomorrow.

But Alexander would rather have clarity now, giving himself and the club time to properly prepare.

The emergency loan system enables clubs to sign players outside transfer windows and Alexander said: “You just have to cut your cloth accordingly.

“If those are the rules and they come into force, you have to manage that aspect of it. You plan ahead for that.

“As things are at the moment, you know there as a failsafe and you can go out and get people on loan.

“I can understand both sides of the argument.

“There are so many different rules and regulations in different leagues and countries it’s hard to keep track of who you can sign and when.”

The Fleetwood boss has dipped into the emergency loan market this season, signing Martin Paterson and Tom Hitchcock in the autumn – when short on firepower – and more recently drafting in Adam Chicksen to provide cover in defence.

Alexander has made no secret of his desire to limit squad numbers at Highbury and insists it’s difficult to cover all eventualities, with the loan system a way for young players to get valuable game-time and put themselves in the public eye.

“You can’t always plan just in the summer, inside a transfer window,” he said.

“But there are outside influences, like injuries.

“We went into pre-season really strong and lost Jamille Matt a minute before the season started.

“We were a man short before a ball was kicked. Injuries occur – it’s a contact sport.

“At the top end, clubs have a surplus of players and people who need to play football.

“Lower level clubs can give them a base to do that.

“We’ve done it with players like Josh Morris and Charlie Taylor, who will go on to have very good careers.

“It can be beneficial but I can undertand why they want teams to have a squad for longer periods and then handle what’s thrown at them.”

But equally Alexander knows the emergency loan system is subject to abuse.

“We’ve brought in Adam Chicksen recently because one left-back was injured and one was suspended.

“That was a genuine emergency. But it’s just a word to be honest. The ‘emergency’ for some clubs is: can we get in the Premier League?”

The concern for those clubs in the lower leagues is that teams higher up the table might be reluctant to release players on loan during the regular window.

Alexander said: “I just feel if it’s taken away, the bigger clubs will hold on to players and the development of those players will stagnate.

“But there does need to be a limit on the number of loan players at a club because you see clubs with six or seven on loan and they can’t use them all (the limit is five in any match day squad). It needs stronger regulation.

“But whatever they do the clubs need to know, so we can plan accordingly. Bigger clubs will have bigger squads and smaller teams will struggle.

“You always get your top end clubs with the power, the strength, the depth and that’s not going to change.”

Nearly 350 Football League players have signed emergency loan deals this season.

Only two of the 72 clubs –Leeds and Reading – have not signed a player on emergency loan so far.