The Loan Report: December 17-23

Romelu Lukaku’s sixth goal of the season continued an impressive personal campaign and highlights the final Loan Report before Christmas.

With many leagues now entering a winter break, it’s also the most comprehensive report for a while, with some teams not returning to action until the end of January.

We begin with the big Belgian forward at West Brom, who maintained his fine record when starting for Steve Clarke’s side with a late winner against Norwich City; a goal which capped a fine performance.

With the transfer window mere days away, speculation as to whether he is likely to return to his parent club is picking up, but speaking after the game both manager and player indicated that it is unlikely to happen and that Lukaku will remain a Baggie for the duration of 2012-13.

In The Championship, Nathaniel Chalobah continued his return to good form with a fine outing for Watford in a 2-0 win at home to Nottingham Forest, a win which puts the Hornets back in the playoff places.

The England Under-21 international ran the show in the midfield accordingly to many reports from Vicarage Road and with his deal due to expire in just under a fortnight, news on a potential extention may not be far away.

Sam Hutchinson wasn’t fit to line up opposite his Chelsea team-mate, but he has this week returned to training and appears on track for a return in the new year.

Josh McEachran and Middlesbrough lost 2-1 at Capital One Cup Quarter Finalists Leeds United, and Josh too has been linked with a return to Stamford Bridge ahead of schedule, with numbers in the centre of midfield depleted. Yet like Lukaku, he has spoken of his desire to stay and fight for promotion in the North-East, and Eddie Newton – now in a loanee liaison role – has promised Boro that the Blues do not intend to recall him. Manager Tony Mowbray, meanwhile, is looking for his young star to push on between now and April.

“My talks with Josh – because he is only a tender age, he’s only 19 – have been about pushing on in the second half of the season,”

“I’ve said to him if he’s going to play for Chelsea’s first team and try to win European Cups, he has to have a bigger impact on our team in the Champion ship and I’m sure he can, as I’ve seen him do some amazing stuff in training.

“I think he can have that extra ingredient that can make a difference in games. We’ve seen it in flashes where he can drift past three or four people.

“So I think it’s almost time for him to push on and influence the game more and he understands that.

“He’s settled in great and has been very integral of what we’ve achieved so far. He didn’t come to Middlesbrough to be a superstar.

“He came here to be a part of our team and he’s doing the job we’ve been asking him to – whether that’s sitting next to Grant Leadbitter and passing the ball to feed the strikers or the wide players, which he’s been doing very, very well.

“Maybe now we can get him to pick the ball up and start travelling with it and going past people, slipping the centre forward in to score. I think he can add that to his game because I’ve seen it in training.”

(Source: Scott Wilson, Northern Echo)

Ben Gordon still can’t find a way into the Birmingham City squad – despite Lee Clark including eight teenagers amongst his eighteen this weekend – and will almost certainly return to Cobham as soon as the window opens.

In League One, injury continues to sideline Patrick Bamford’s MK Dons career, whilst Todd Kane was absent from both of Preston’s fixtures this week. He was initially left out of the matchday squad on both occasions but came onto the bench for Saturday’s clash with Coventry after someone else suffered an injury during the warm-up.

Nonetheless, his stay at Deepdale hasn’t exactly gone to plan, and neither has Conor Clifford’s at Crawley Town. The Irishman is still yet to debut for the Reds and, like Kane, may not stay beyond the original cutoff date in mid-January.

Sam Walker has a new manager in John Ward at Bristol Rovers but was unable to impress his new boss this weekend as their fixture was one of many to fall foul of the weather in England.

In Spain, Thibaut Courtois kept a league-highest 18th clean sheet of the 2012 calendar year for Atlético Madrid in a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo which ensures Diego Simeone’s team go into the winter break in second place.

Down in La Segunda, Ulises Dávila and Sabadell lost 1-0 at home to Lugo, a result which leaves the Catalan club in a respectable 9th place at the midway point. Dávila has grown into a key contributor for the Harlequins and will be central to their hopes of a surprise promotion challenge as the season draws onwards.

There was still no sign of Jhon Pírez playing for Leganés this week though. Perhaps if he had have appeared, the Mayans would have been right…

In the Netherlands, Vitesse had a comfortable midweek cup outing, beating ADO ’20 10-1 with Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta all starting. Kakuta picked up one assist and was heavily involved in another goal before being subbed short of the hour mark at 6-0, whilst defenders Kalas and Van Aanholt completed the full 90 minutes.

However, they came back to earth on Saturday with a 2-1 loss away to Heerenveen which leaves them fourth and five points off leaders PSV at the winter interval. Again, all three Chelsea loanees played from the start and Kakuta was withdrawn a quarter of an hour from time after another lively attacking performance.

The trio promise to be front and centre for the Gelderlanders after Christmas but with Kalas being linked to a Bundesliga move earlier this season, they may have to do without his services. However, Jeffrey Bruma has been cited as a potential new arrival for Fred Rutten, and it would be a move that would make much sense, for the centre-back has struggled to feature for Hamburg this season.

The Bundesliga has already entered hibernation for the winter so neither he nor Kevin De Bruyne were in action this weekend. However, both Amin Affane and Kenneth Omeruo featured for Roda and ADO Den Haag respectively in the Netherlands, with Affane playing 69 minutes in a 4-2 win over local rivals VVV Venlo and Omeruo – who was named in the provisional Nigerian squad for the African Cup of Nations this week – getting 90 minutes and a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over NEC Nijmegen.

There was also no action for Milan Lalkovic and Matej Delac in Portugal with Liga action over until January 5th. News emerged this week that Vitória Guimaraes forward Toscano may be moving on, which would potentially open the door for Lalkovic to play a whole lot more than he has done so far. He’s looked useful as an impact substitute but will be seeking more minutes in 2013, either in Portugal or elsewhere.

Finally, in Belgium, Thorgan Hazard played well in a 1-1 draw away to Bergen, and he has been central to a superb season which will see them go into 2013 in a Champions League qualifying spot.