Onside: The highs and lows of Middlesbrough’s loan dealings


THE loan market. What a peculiar and unpredictable stall it can be in which to shop.

It’s very much been a part of adapting to life in the Championship.

With a spot in the second tier comes financial restrictions, we know about them only too well.

But the opportunity to bring players in - often from the league above - on a temporary basis is a carrot dangled and often snatched by managers in the Championship.

With little or no cash to spend it can be the only way of adding to threadbare squad with a thankless task of playing 46 games in a competitive league.

But those brave enough to take charge at a Championship club should be warned. The loan market can be a dangerous place to step.

For lurking beneath the disguise of top club employers lie the Marcus Bents, Chris Killens and Jay O’Sheas of this world.

Those managers who jump in at the prospect of an addition from a higher placed club are a loan signature away from having Dave Kitson leading the line or Mickael Tavares in the engine room.

Still lining their pockets with over-inflated wages from a Premier League club, the hassle and ego-bashing of a drop down in level is merely met with a few months of going through the motions - “why bother?” - before going back to spend an afternoon and evening in a hotel, home for the spell up north.

And for many of those broadening their footballing minds and coming from abroad, by the time they have adapted to the life in the hustle, bustle and grind of the Championship, it’s time to board a plane back home.

But contrary to the beliefs of those poisoned by watching a loan addition come in, swan around for a few games, before racing back off down the A19 in a rush to get away, the art of borrowing a player can work.

Gianfranco Zola can vouch for that.

And every now and again, a short-term signing can swing a season - transform a side.

And young players: Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend et al are living testament to how loan moves can be the best work placement on offer to a budding star learning how to ply his trade.

Nathaniel Chalobah fits that bill. He has impressed at Watford and Nottingham Forest already and is rated highly at Chelsea. A five-year contract is proof of such promise.

Kenneth Omeruo too.

But Shay Given is a different example.

At 38-years-old the stopper is a shining light to all in the professional game.

With the vast majority of a sterling career behind him, it would be easy for him to see it out sat on the bench at Aston Villa still pocketing a rather handsome sum each week.

Other keepers have done it.

With more than 500 club appearances and 125 international caps to his name, Paul Lambert’s ever-more questionable decision to drop the Irishman could have prompted the keeper to call it a day.

But Given, a stopper who would have strolled between the sticks of just about every Premier League team just a few years ago, was happy to drop to the Championship to secure game time.

And what he has done is stroll straight into the hearts of the Boro faithful.

If it’s possible for a 38-year-old professional footballer to be reinvigorated then Given is exactly that.

His last gasp save to prevent Charlton an undeserved equaliser last weekend was perhaps not the world class wonder stop it looked at the time when we finally got the chance to watch a replay almost 48 hours later - thanks in no part to the Football League Show.

But it was still an incredibly vital stop nonetheless, the fifth in six vital shut outs that have no helped in no small part in transforming Boro’s season.

Whether Given extends his stay beyond the end of next month or not, his time on Teesside has been an undoubted success.

An ambassador for how a professional footballer can approach a loan move.

Boro sent a trio of youngsters out on loan themselves yesterday.

Luke Williams, Adam Reach and Richie Smallwood haven’t played as many games between them as Given.

But if they approach their moves with a similar attitude to Boro’s current goal-stopper they will give themselves every chance of impressing Karanka from afar and coming back with renewed vigour with game time behind them ready to kick on in a Boro shirt.

They’re certainly all good enough.