In addition to Manchester City signing Wilfried Bony for £28, the transactions involving Juan Cuadrado moving to Chelsea and Andre Schurrle joining Wolfsburg may have been the other most expensive acquisitions during the FIFA January transfer window, but it would appear that loan deals were by far the most popular choice for clubs. For teams below the top tier of their respective national association, a loan move is the most practical solution given the precarious state of finances at such levels, but perhaps the most bizarre example of such a deal occurred on Monday evening between Newcastle United of the English Premier League and Glasgow Rangers from the second tier Scottish Championship.
Mike Ashley is the current owner of Newcastle and recently appointed John Carver as Head Coach until the end of the season following the departure of Alan Pardew to Crystal Palace. It has also been a confusing situation at Rangers where Ally McCoist resigned as manager to be replaced by the seemingly reluctant Kenny MacDowall who will leave the club in the near future. Ashley is also one of the leading shareholders at Rangers in addition to agreeing to provide the club with a £10 million emergency loan.
On transfer deadline day, Newcastle loaned five of their fringe first team players to Rangers but whether the respective head coach and manager were involved in the transactions is open to debate. It has been argued that the strengthening of the Rangers squad via this method has offered the team a greater opportunity of securing promotion to the Scottish Premiership at the end of the season, an outcome which may eventually arise via the relegation / promotion playoffs.
The players Gael Bigirimana, Kevin Mbabu, Remie Streete, Shane Ferguson and Haris Vuckic have barely featured for the Newcastle first team this season and have been prominent players at under-21 level but such is the dearth of talent in Scotland at the moment that all five could command regular berths in the Rangers senior team.
Ashley will argue that the deals will offer the footballers a chance of regular and competitive first team football and this may be a correct assertion. Yet the immediate concern for McDowall will be to blend these new recruits into the current squad without necessarily having witnessed any of those players performing on the pitch. Seemingly gone are the days when managers were also talent spotters, seeking certain individuals capable of providing those missing links in the team.
As for John Carver at Newcastle, he may have been simply asked to nominate five individuals who would benefit from such a loan move and it was also noticeable that very few of the so-called reserve team players at St James’ Park were loaned to any lower tier English clubs during the January window.
It is possible that such a practice may be common in cases of dual ownership of football clubs but it also demonstrates that the role of the head coach or manager is diminishing in terms of team building, recruitment and the assessing of potential new players with those decisions now more seemingly entrusted to others.