The Loan Report: Season in Review – England

With the 2013-14 season now pretty much over, it’s time to take a look back over a record-breaking campaign on the loan front. Today, we look at the Chelsea’s prospects in England.


[table class=”table table-striped”]
Ryan Bertrand,Aston Villa,16,0,0
Romelu Lukaku,Everton,33,16,6
Victor Moses,Liverpool,22,2,0
Patrick Bamford,MK Dons/Derby,52,25,5
Billy Clifford,Yeovil,1,0,0
Nathaniel Chalobah,Nottm Forest/Middlesbrough,24,3,0
Sam Hutchinson,Sheff Wed,10,1,1
Todd Kane,Blackburn,28,2,3
Josh McEachran, Watford/Wigan,19,0,1
Kenneth Omeruo,Middlesbrough,14,0,1
Milan Lalkovic,Walsall,42,6,4
Daniel Pappoe, Colchester/Kingstonian,14,0,0
George Saville,Brentford,44,3,4
Sam Walker, Colchester,29,0,0

The Story?

Bertrand joined Aston Villa in January with the express intent of playing regular football after failing to crack Jose Mourinho’s matchday squad often enough in the first half of the season. He got his wish, starting sixteen times during his spell at Villa Park, but such was the poor form of Paul Lambert’s team he found himself embroiled in a relegation scrap.

His performances were hard to appraise, with many Villa fans observing that both Joe Bennett and Antonio Luna before him had appeared terrible at left-back and that a common factor involved in their struggles was the complete lack of defensive support from Gabby Agbonlahor. That was perhaps a reason for Bertrand’s occasional deployment on the left of a midfield four, but overall whilst he got what he wanted, he didn’t impress as much as he and Chelsea might have liked.

Lukaku did impress, albeit not necessarily to the standards required at Stamford Bridge. The decision to send him out on a second successive top flight loan deal was questioned in most quarters on August’s deadline day; the suggestion being that none of Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres or Demba Ba were good enough and that the developing young Belgian might have been the best bet to shine.

Everton won the race for his signature over previous loan home West Brom and he weighed in with sixteen goals – two shy of his Baggies total – whilst refining his game considerably and looking a more polished product than before. August’s dissenters will point at statistics and claim they were right but Everton’s style under Roberto Martinez was markedly different from Mourinho’s at Chelsea and it’s not a safe bet that Lukaku would have been the right man for the job over the past ten months. Nonetheless, he took steps towards becoming the player they want him to be, and that much can be treated very positively.

Moses was forced into finding alternative employment after being told his playing time would be nearly non-existent and so headed north to join Liverpool. He started well with a debut goal at Swansea but the emergence of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling kept him stapled to the bench for most of the season; something he might as well have done back in London.

Bamford returned to Milton Keynes Dons after hitting it off there at the tail end of 2012-13 and proceeded to shred League One defences up and down the country in a five-month spell of complete dominance. His seventeen goals saw him outgrow England’s third tier and earn a move to Derby County, a team with aspirations of promotion to the Premier League. He carried on despite the step up in quality and a being forced into a role wide on the right and added eight more goals bunched together in two short bursts as the Rams hit the playoff trail.

Chalobah was arguably THE youngster of the 2012-13 season in The Championship, earning rave reviews for a Watford team that fell one match short of promotion to the top flight. Everything was lined up for one final season out on loan – ideally at a Premier League team – before integrating into Jose Mourinho’s squad for 14-15; the Portuguese even suggesting as much in the public domain.

Things didn’t quite go to plan though. An injury sustained whilst on England Under-21 duty in early August not only scared off big clubs from a loan deal, it also scuppered interest from the second tier in using up one of their longer-term loan slots. His brand new contract saw a bumper pay rise and the prospect of being asked to contribute towards it didn’t sit well with many interested parties either. Eventually Nottingham Forest bit the bullet and grabbed him but clashes with manager Billy Davies and inconsistent form meant it was an ill-fated stay.

Attempts to resurrect the season at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium were largely more positive than negative as he enjoyed a similar stay to McEachran the season before; decent in almost every department without being flashy. He even featured at centre-back on occasion with varying degrees of success.

Clifford’s move to Yeovil promised much but lasted barely a month as he fell afoul of the numbers game at Huish Park. Manager Gary Johnson augmented his small squad with a host of loanees and with a maximum of five allowed to feature in a match day squad, the Glovers’ midfield depth meant he missed out and so Chelsea ended his deal ahead of time.

Hutchinson spent the first half of the season in the Netherlands at Vitesse working predominantly with their physio; a renowned knee injury expert. The work he put in clearly paid dividends as his switch back to English football with Sheffield Wednesday saw him play regular football for the first time in at least eighteen months. Playing in central midfield, he displayed a renewed freshness and reliability and caught the eye on a number of occasions despite picking up a couple of red cards.

A return to Blackburn for Kane made every bit of sense last summer following a strong showing for Rovers in the latter part of the 2012-13 Championship season. He’d earned the trust of manager Gary Bowyer and was duly installed as their first-choice right back when things kicked off again back in August. All went well until the busy Christmas period when Todd was struck by injury and suspension, and from that point he never got his starting place back.

It wasn’t so much to do with his own performances – by all accounts they were in keeping with his generally attack-minded approach – but that by the time he was able to return to duty, Adam Henley had deputised well enough to get the nod; benefitting as much from the fact he was more likely to be at Ewood Park beyond May than the Chelsea man was. Henley’s season ended a month early due to a broken ankle but Todd’s opportunities were no less sporadic, although he did score his second goal in blue and white away to Birmingham City.

McEachran’s tale is slightly similar to Chalobah’s. After a year at Middlesbrough, this was the season he was meant to kick on and give Chelsea every reason to hope for his inclusion in their Premier League plans in years to come, but an injury meant a belated loan deal with Watford that proved very disappointing with questions about his work ethic rising in the final days of 2013. He shifted over to Wigan for the second half of the season and played sparingly as manager Uwe Rosler preferred to focus on a rigorous fitness programme designed to help the young midfielder play catch-up with other 21 year-olds.

Omeruo underwent shoulder surgery back in September, a procedure he required after impressing for Nigeria at the FIFA Confederations Cup last summer. Had he been fit for pre-season it wouldn’t have been beyond the realms of possibility for him to have been in Mourinho’s plans but instead he played just 45 minutes of football post-op and needed a loan in the new year.

Middlesbrough’s interest was noted not long after Aitor Karanka – a Mourinho acolyte from his Real Madrid days – took over in the North East and after a slow start caused by a lack of match fitness, the big centre back blossomed into one of the best defenders in the division.

Lalkovic signed a one-year extension to his Chelsea contract last summer; a move that surprised many considering his path to first team football was hard to see and as a free agent he could have had his pick of interested clubs across Europe. However, after unsuccessful spells with Vitoria Guimaraes and ADO Den Haag under his belt, he stayed on English shores this time around and linked up with Walsall in League One.

A debut goal against Tranmere promised a lot and he had a generally impressive year, especially after November when international duties had cleared up and allowed him to settle down and fight for a regular place. He contributed half a dozen goals as the Saddlers fought for a playoff place until April before falling away from the chasing pack.

Saville was a key part of a Brentford team that secured promotion to England’s second tier for the first time in more than twenty years. Entrusted with an anchoring role in midfield first by Uwe Rosler and then Mark Warburton – the Sporting Director-turned-manager that brought the 20 year-old to Griffin Park in the first place – he flourished with an outstanding campaign on every level.

Walker continued at Colchester after spending the second half of 2012-13 at the Weston Homes Community Stadium and agreed an eighteen-month permanent deal during the January transfer window.

What’s Next?

Bertrand has recently spoken of his ambitions to return to Chelsea and force his way into the post-Ashley Cole left-back reckoning but that appears a distant hope at this stage and a more realistic proposition would see him join a mid-table team for a decent fee. The same can be said for Moses, who will surely fall victim in an attacking midfield blessed with vastly better players than him.

Lukaku theoretically should be a part of the first team picture next season but the same was said twelve months ago and that didn’t work out so well. He’s eminently capable of being a useful piece if not the first choice wrecking ball in attack, but he doesn’t seem to want to be that guy. He wants to play every match and be relied upon, and that’s all well and good, but at this stage he’s arguably only good enough to do that for a team slightly below Chelsea’s tier. An interesting few months await.

Omeruo is a Premier League defender in all but name and presuming he doesn’t completely tank at the World Cup, there will be definite interest in his services from good teams. He has a shot at staying in SW6 and playing his part right now but could end up fighting that battle with Kurt Zouma, who arguably (it’s very close) has a greater pedigree.

Bamford said his goodbyes to Derby fans after their Playoff Final defeat but manager Steve McClaren indicated that he would be very keen on trying to bring him back to the iPro Stadium again. If Chelsea are intent on him having a full year in the Championship then they’re certainly favourites, not least because the Blues have shown that they’re more than prepared to retain a successful relationship. There will, however, be considerable interest from elsewhere.

Chalobah was touted as being in Mourinho’s plans for 2014-15 but that was before a less-than-perfect last twelve months took place. A Premier League loan would be a huge step towards his integration but that might have to wait until next January, when he’ll hopefully have picked up where he left off at Watford and proved himself too good for that particular level.

McEachran and Kane can probably say the same, although neither will really be considered as strong a long-term prospect as Chalobah despite having particular assets themselves. A season of first-choice, 40+ match action is an absolute must.

Hutchinson’s future is constantly being evaluated and really depends on the state of his knee but he’s had a solid three months and every reason to be optimistic. He does turn 25 in August though, and if he is to make good on a professional career is likely to find himself a new home this summer.

Clifford’s Antwerp move didn’t go quite to plan and although he has a year left on his contract, he turns 22 early next season and will surely be considering the next step in his football career being away from Stamford Bridge.

Lalkovic is out of contract at the end of June and will likely search for a good Championship opportunity in England or seek out a more fruitful move overseas. He hasn’t ruled out a return to Walsall but will most certainly investigate other options first.

Saville is on Brentford’s list of hopefuls ahead of their return to the Championship and all parties would seem happy for the young midfielder to make his stay at Griffin Park a permanent one.

Pappoe’s long injury history makes his future hard to evaluate but he’s got plenty of time ahead to prove himself capable of playing in League One or Two in the short-term. His Chelsea contract is up this summer and he’ll very likely be moving on.