It scarcely seems possible but the new club football season is upon us, and it is therefore time to begin the 2013-14 Loan Report. A slight change of format greets the new campaign; one which will hopefully aid the flow and structure of the weekly review of Chelsea players plying their trade elsewhere. We begin with those to have caught the eye more than most in the last seven days (or more, in some cases).
Slovakian forward Milan Lalkovic hasn’t had the best time of it in his sporadic departures from Cobham thus far in his brief career. A short sojourn to Doncaster Rovers promised much but was ended prematurely, whilst overseas spells at ADO Den Haag and Vitória Guimaraes fell short of expectation. This season, he will be donning the red colours of Walsall, and got his stay at the Saddlers off to a perfect start with a goal and an assist on debut.
His first-half strike against Tranmere displayed all the hallmarks of a player with top flight pedigree; gathering the ball just outside the box before clipping a low shot into the bottom corner. He added to that in the second half by laying on Craig Westcarr’s second goal to secure a 3-1 victory with a cute and deft flick to release the forward, who did the rest.
He got 66 minutes in a follow-up outing in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, where Walsall beat fellow League One side Port Vale 2-1 to progress into Round Two.
Also making waves in England’s third tier is goalkeeper Sam Walker, who returned to Colchester after an impressive five months there between January and May earlier this calendar year. He picked up where he left off, earning a man of the match award for an outstanding display away to Gillingham on the opening day of the season. The big stopper pulled off a string of superb saves to preserve a clean sheet en route to a 1-0 victory.
Things didn’t exactly go to plan in the Cup three days later though, when he shipped five at home to Peterborough, but his first league outing promised much and showed what he can achieve this term.
Overseas, it’s been an eventful few weeks for Thorgan Hazard, who like Walker has returned to his home from last time around in Zulte-Waregem. They failed to get past PSV in the Champions League Qualifiers having finished second to Anderlecht in 2012-13 and will now try their luck in the Europa League, but the junior Hazard has still been in the spotlight.
He opened his second stay at Essevee with a goal direct from a free kick before proving the assist for the winner away to Lierse on the opening day; a performance which suggested he would be amongst Francky Dury’s key men for the long road ahead.
To that end, Dury handed him the club captaincy, only to rescind the gesture upon gauging the reaction from a rather disgruntled dressing room. It shows the esteem in which he is held by his manager, and whilst it might make things awkward for Thorgan, there are no immediate suggestions that his team-mates harbour any resentment towards him for the turn of events.
The Premier League doesn’t kick off for another week or so yet, but the Football League is firmly underway and there were a few other young Blues in action alongside Lalkovic and Walker. Todd Kane and Blackburn Rovers drew 1-1 at Derby County on Sunday with the right-back playing 90 minutes and picking up a yellow card. They then crashed out of the League Cup on Wednesday, falling on penalties at Carlisle United after a 3-3 draw. Todd played the full game as he establishes himself as first choice in his position, but was not called upon to take a spot kick.
Billy Clifford was an unused substitute for Yeovil Town’s Championship debut away to Millwall, but got his first competitive minutes for the Glovers in Cup football, playing the full game in midfield as Gary Johnson’s boys beat Southend United 1-0.
In League One, Patrick Bamford was also an unused substitute on the opening weekend as he watched Milton Keynes Dons draw 0-0 at Shrewsbury, but he then saw action away to Northampton, getting 69 minutes in a 2-1 Capital One Cup win.
George Saville enjoyed 90 minutes to start his Brentford career away to Port Vale, meanwhile, before taking a breather without involvement against Dagenham in a cup round where most of his other Chelsea colleagues featured for their temporary clubs.
Daniel Pappoe, who has joined Walker at Colchester, is yet to appear for the Essex side, with a place on the bench in the defeat to Peterborough the closest he’s been thus far.
An ever-increasing contingent of Blues in the Netherlands appears to be on the cards, but thus far just Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta have sealed moves to affiliate club Vitesse and made notable appearances. The former got 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over Heracles in the opening round of fixtures on Sunday and did so in a familiar role at left-back, but Kakuta was absent through an injury picked up in their Europa League qualifier away to FC Petrolul Ploiesti a few days earlier (Van Aanholt played 90 minutes and was booked). He is unlikely to feature in tonight’s second leg.
The pair will be joined by 18 year-old Chilean Cristian Cuevas, who spent a few weeks with Dermot Drummy’s Under-21 squad this summer after completing his move from O’Higgins. He is likely to feature in a more attacking role on the left, perhaps in tandem with Van Aanholt, although he may also deputise for the Jong Oranje starlet should he be unavailable. There are also suggestions that Lucas Piazon will finalise a loan deal in the coming days; a move which would increase Chelsea representation at the Gelredome to four, whilst rumours of interest in Mexican forward Ulises Dávila from FC Twente mean the Eredivisie is, as usual, a league to keep an eye on.
A new country to add to the loan watch rituals; the Serbian league and, specifically, FK Vojvodina, plays host to the unfortunate Croatian goalkeeper Matej Delac this season. After dismal spells at Vitesse, Dynamo Ceske Budejovice and Vitória Guimaraes, Delac is trying his luck in another location after former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman pounced in his role as Director of Football/Vice-President at the club.
Things have started as well as they possibly could have, as he’s actually seen the field of play. He started with a clean sheet on debut in the Europa League at home to Honvéd and featured in the 3-1 return leg victory, before playing well enough in a 2-2 home draw against the impressive Bursaspor in the following round, although he was caught out a little for a late equaliser from a set piece. He’ll keep goal in the return leg this evening, and is expected to be first choice for the duration of the season.
Yet to kick off
A quartet of Spanish-based players who have completed loan deals but are yet to see the beginning of their seasons. Oriol Romeu (Valencia), Thibaut Courtois (Atlético Madrid) and Marko Marin (Sevilla) will all take part in La Liga and assorted UEFA competitions in the months ahead, and will be regulars in this weekly column. Furthermore, Jhon Pírez, a lesser-known Uruguayan developmental forward, will return to Leganés in the Spanish third tier after coming through well there last season following a series of serious injuries.
It’s also highly likely that as many as half a dozen others find themselves new colours before the transfer window closes in September, meaning that as usual, the Loan Report will be lengthy yet comprehensive. For all the latest on the slew of loanees playing away from Stamford Bridge, keep it here on TheChels.net and on Twitter @chelseayouth and the #loanwatch hashtag.