As we reach the closing days of September, Chelsea’s loanees will be settled in at their homes for the 2010/11 season, and are preparing for the long winter stretch.
Many are firmly established in the starting line-up, but for others, the challenge remains to work their way into regular consideration.
Michael Mancienne is facing exactly that after a week in which he failed to appear in Wolverhampton old gold and black. He was an unused substitute in a rotated side which beat Notts County 4-2 after extra time in midweek League Cup action, and then was omitted from the matchday squad for Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat to local rivals Aston Villa.
Manager Mick McCarthy failed to mention a reason for not including Mancienne, which suggests he had faith in other individuals, and was almost vindicated with a draw until Emile Heskey’s late goal proved their downfall. However, the former Irish international holds Mancienne in high regard and will certainly continue to use him throughout the season.
In The Championship, Ryan Bertrand has been first choice at left-back for Nottingham Forest since joining them in early August, whilst Jack Cork has begun to secure a starting spot in Burnley’s midfield.
He completed 90 minutes on Tuesday as Brian Laws’ boys saw off the challenge posed by former manager Owen Coyle and Bolton before following it up with another full outing in a weekend goalless draw at home to Bristol City. His presence appears to have boosted defensive stability, and as he showed late last season, with goals in his repertoire, he can be effective at both ends of the pitch.
Bertrand, meanwhile, finally saw a first league win of the season as Forest fought hard to eventually overcome Brendan Rodgers and Swansea 3-1 at the City Ground. He was booked in stoppage time but will likely have been relieved at not having to face the in-form Scott Sinclair, who was missing with a hamstring complaint.
Rhys Taylor’s biggest challenge so far is to come, as senior goalkeeper Steve Phillips will return to fitness soon, and will create competition in the Crewe goal. For now, the Welsh stopper has been excellent and should hold onto his job, and was once again in fine form on Saturday in a 1-1 draw with Oxford.
Alex are unbeaten in six league matches and have one of the league’s better defensive records, and it took almost 80 minutes to beat Taylor yesterday. When James Constable’s equaliser came, it was after the young goalkeeper had made a fine initial save, but he was unable to prevent the second effort.
Much like Bertrand, Ben Gordon has found regular football at left-back during his spell at Kilmarnock, and has impressed on a consistent basis. He too was on double time this week, completing matches against Hibs in a 3-1 Cup tie in midweek (picking up a booking) before a 2-2 draw away to Hamilton in the league at the weekend.
The former Leeds youngster was involved in Jamie Hamill’s goal on Wednesday and was the hero late in the second game with a last-gasp clearance from the goalline to give his team a chance of earning a point, which they did a minute from time.
In Holland, Vitesse Arnhem collected their second win of the season with a straightforward 2-0 win away to Excelsior which once again saw Nemanja Matic and Slobodan Rajkovic involved. Matej Delac remains second choice to Eloy Room, who has kept back to back clean sheets (benefitting from a missed penalty this week), but the Serbian duo have slotted in seamlessly and Matic in particular has impressed.
He was named in the ‘team of the round’ last time out and brings a nice, tidy approach to the midfield, offering intelligence and balance to the formation.
Completing the picture this week, Tomas Kalas was back on the playing field for Sigma Olomouc B, who halted a run of four straight defeats by beating Líšeň 2-1, with the teenager playing the full back in defence.