Everton: Criticism Of Our Loan Deals Is Utter B******s
On Half Man Half Biscuit’s 2002 track The Referee’s Alphabet, frontman Nigel Blackwell makes astute observations about football’s man in black, as well as its hugely overpaid players. The letter K, he insists, is thus: “K is for kissing the badge, how ridiculous that looks six months later when they’re at another club.”
It’s a truth universally accepted that the majority of top flight players are more interested in collecting silverware and a bumper pay packet, than they are in being loyal to the club and its fans. And for them, the question of loyalty goes to the very heart of what following the team is all about. Turning up to watch a team week in, week out - celebrating its triumphs and wallowing in its abject failures, those are some of the bittersweet attractions of the game.
These are time-worn traditions - and any player in this league that shows real passion for the club, and loyalty, that’s a perfect bonus. But what about loanees? Much squawking has been done this season about Everton’s apparent reliance on temporary squad members, players who’ve been farmed out to us, a hard-up club, by rich teams with more players than they know what to do with. The flimsy point seems to be that the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deulofeu are somehow not really part of the team because they haven’t signed permanent deals.
What utter b******s. Firstly, loan deals have been the norm for a long time now, and although the amount a club arranges invariably highlights its lack of cash, they work nonetheless. A perfect example is one of the most successful loanees Everton has had, Landon Donovan. He hopped across the pond for a few months in 2010 and his spirit, skill and passion lifted the whole team. It’s just a shame a permanent deal was never done, to keep him around.
But, as Half Man Half Biscuit suggest, footballers don’t hang around forever. Clubs can’t expect to hold on to its best players if another team comes in with a sack of cash. Also, giant squads typify the modern game and many players will simply never be good or lucky enough to get regular first team football. So, even so-called permanent signings can’t be considered permanent fixtures - they’re always on their way out. Players, unless they’re a Rooney, Gerrard or Lampard, can at best expect one or two good seasons at the club and a massive salary, followed by an inevitable move elsewhere.
Ideally of course, it would be great if all our best players were on permanent deals that kept them longer than a season and there’s nothing to say Barry and the rest won’t put pen to paper. In a recent interview he all but thanked Roberto Martinez for reviving his career and giving him back the confidence to think he could be going to Brazil with England this summer. Stranger things have happened. From what Barry says, he’s happy as hell at Everton and we will be quite careless, to say the least, if we can’t hold onto him.
The same can’t be said for Lukaku and Deulofeu, players at the beginning of their careers who are still beginning to set the world on fire. The Catalan boy will probably return to Barcelona this summer a better, stronger player, before going on to win many things with his boyhood team. Everton’s sparing use of him hints at the inevitable farewell.
Lukaku’s harder to call. If he’s happy, and he seems to be, he’ll stay if we can afford him. But can we? I’m not so sure. It’s an unfortunate quandary that his mercurial displays for us have probably made him harder to sign, as his value has rocketed. I sense that his massive boots will probably be tearing up turf in a different country next season, but there’s always hope.
There’s faint hope that his form will dip drastically and we get him on the cheap, a little like Tim Howard’s did when he arrived on loan from Man Utd several years ago. It could happen, he’s only scored once in nine recent matches, after all. I just pray the next time he does put one in the net, he doesn’t kiss the badge.