Apr 19 2012 by Nick Hilton, The Liverpool Post
WHEN Ronnie Moore mapped out his strategy this week for reshaping the Tranmere squad for next season, he acknowledged those plans are sure to rely on loan players filling the gaps that can’t be covered on a tight budget.
It is the way things have been done at Prenton Park for the past three seasons. However, easy access to loan players is an option Football League clubs may not be able to enjoy for much longer, unless Fifa, the world governing body, can be persuaded that the English are not exploiting the current rules in a way they were not intended for.
Moore, whose appointment as manager for the 2012/13 campaign is expected to be confirmed next week, says he is prepared to cut back on squad numbers at Prenton Park in order to pay for better quality attacking players.
“We don’t score enough goals,” Moore said this week.
“Every team that does well in this division has a goalscorer and wingers with a bit of pace who can put balls into the box. That’s basically what we will be looking for.
“Those type of players cost money. It is easy to find them, the hard part is paying them. So it may be we have a smaller squad, so we can afford to bring in people with that bit more quality.”
A smaller squad for the next campaign is going to mean less cover for injuries illnesses and suspensions, leaving Tranmere to fall back on loan signings.
Moore says: “The budgets have to go a long way for clubs at our level. Most League One clubs can’t carry the squads to cover themselves these days. Financially it is not possible to have a squad of 25-plus. It is too costly. We are not minted here. We have a budget and we have to stick to it.”
So Tranmere will probably have to keep on with their habit of being regular players – if not exactly big spenders – in the loan market. They’ve signed close to 30 players on emergency loans or, more often, youth loans over the past three seasons.
Many of them made passing contributions that were quickly forgotten. Remember Ben Gordon, Arnaud Mendy or Sam Mantom? A few made longer-term commitments to Tranmere after the loan spell ended, such as Andy Robinson, Joss Labadie, Robbie Weir and Michael Kay.
If Tranmere’s example is fairly typical of the way clubs from the lower divisions use the loan system, Fifa are not convinced the English are upholding the spirit of the rules.
In the six years following their introduction, 2,400 players moved under the system and at the midway point of this season, Fifa called time. They announced that emergency and youth loans breach rules governing transfer windows, and will be banned from the start of the 2014/15 season. From that point on, Rovers will have to fall back on standard loans arranged during the summer and January transfer windows.
Now clubs like Tranmere are hoping the Football League can make a strong case in persuading Fifa to amend transfer window rules before the ban is imposed, after the governing body said it would conduct research into support for a relaxation.
Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson warns the issue has the potential to have a huge impact on the football economy in England.
The move will also hit the Premier League clubs who rely on loaning out promising young players who are short of first-team experience to clubs in the lower divisions throughout the season.
The Football League says the emergency loan system is tailored to England’s unique football economy, with 48 clubs in the third and fourth tiers fully professional despite small gates.
Williamson has promised: “The League will continue to do everything within its power to retain as much flexibility for clubs as possible in this critical area.”
While Moore is amongst the majority of English club managers who would prefer to see the current loan conditions remain, some alternative views have been expressed.
Gary Johnson, the experienced manager of League One club Yeovil Town, is under similar financial pressures to Moore at Tranmere but reckons a restriction on loans would put the onus on clubs getting their squad selection right each summer.
Johnson says: “For me, because England is the only country that allowed the situation, I think it will make people work harder on the players they’ve already got at their club and work harder pre-season to get a group to go through the season.
“Short-term loans are not always what you think they’re going to be because the players have always got to go back after 93 days. The other club is always getting more out of it because their player is gaining a bit of experience and they are not always as good as you think they might be.
“It will be interesting in a couple of years time to see who handles it, who copes with it and who can’t.”