To say that Jack Wilshere’s loan spell at Bolton two years ago changed the face of English football would be an extreme exaggeration. However, the youngster’s positive experience at the Reebok did open the door for a different type of loan, one involving a young player gaining experience at a high level Premier League club, rather than dropping down a couple of divisions.
In the wake of Wilshere’s success, last season we saw two of England’s brightest talents go out on loan to Premier League clubs; Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge joining Sunderland and Bolton respectively. Both quickly ascended the ranks at their new clubs, with Welbeck fast becoming a fan favourite at the Stadium of Light, and Sturridge banging in the goals with confidence for Owen Coyle’s side.
Not even a disappointing U21 Euros from the duo could assuage the rising excitement about England’s future strike pairing; like so many failures before them, the Dannys are the next ‘big thing.’
So where does that leave the owners of the two players, Manchester United and Chelsea, two teams rich in striking talent, yet both unwilling to let a promising youngster leave in case of an injury crisis? Sir Alex Ferguson has proven over the years that he is not averse to giving youth its chance, while Andre Villas Boas will likely want to avoid risk taking in his first season in charge of a club with a history of managerial casualties.
Both managers seem to remain undecided about the prospects of their young guns. Ferguson has already promised Michael Owen increased playing time, while the return of striker Federico Macheda from Sampdoria will see seven strikers competing for a maximum of two places.
At Stamford Bridge, Torres’ arrival last January indicated that former manager Carlo Ancelotti was less than confident in the abilities of Daniel Sturridge, though the duo’s differing fortunes made Chelsea’s former manager look a bit foolish. Still though, Villas Boas will likely start his fifty million pound man ahead of former City striker Sturridge, while Drogba, Anelka and Kalou will all see themselves as the occupants of the next three striking spots.
If either of the clubs were to make their player available on loan, there would be suitors aplenty. Both proved last year that they can guarantee goals in the Premiership.
But as always, a loan move comes with risks. The potential pit fall of a managerial change mid season, or a failure to settle, could see one year in either of the footballers’ short careers wasted.
Stagnation and bench warming are two afflictions which have struck many youngsters unwilling to go out on loan; both Sturridge and Welbeck are cocky enough to think that when given a chance they would take it, but often a footballer’s opinion of himself differs drastically from that of the manager.
Neither will want to slip into a perpetual cycle of loan here, loan there, yet both should be on the guard against years spent as back up for more illustrious team mates.
If no striker departs from either Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford, then both players really should go out on loan; they cannot risk delaying their development any farther.
Too many players have wasted away at big clubs, and it would be tragic to see Welbeck and Sturridge meet the same fate; the English national team needs youngsters like the Dannys to improve year after year.
In the past, the Dannys’ dilemma was one constantly debated over in the back offices of British clubs, a conundrum that yielded no one solution for everyone, but an ever changing array of options, varying player by player.
However, the actions of both Manchester United and Chelsea over the next few weeks, and their subsequent successes or failures, could go some way to setting an important precedent; a benchmark situation for other clubs to use while evaluating their own young up and comers.
The future of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge should begin to become clearer over the next couple of months, but until then, their prospects will be the subject of much debate and conjecture- both inside the clubs themselves, and throughout football’s online universe.