'Harry Kane needed Millwall loan for England'

By Phil ShepkaBBC Sport
Harry Kane
Harry Kane scored nine goals in 27 games for Millwall on loan in 2012

It is quite a strange sight seeing a fresh-faced Harry Kane celebrating a goal for Millwall, isn't it?

The Premier League's current leading goalscorer reaped the benefits of the loan system during his early development years, spending temporary stints at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and, of all teams, Leicester.

But he is not alone. In fact, only six of Roy Hodgson's 21-man England squad to face Germany and the Netherlands have not benefitted from a loan spell at one point in their career.

The ease of which players do so may all be about to change, though, with Fifa planning to end the current emergency loan system in England's Football League.

That would mean no more loan windows - the current one shuts on Thursday - outside of the normal transfer windows.

Fifa are scrapping it to protect the "sporting integrity of competitions" and, after a one-season reprieve from changes, the Football Association rules will now fall in line with Fifa's desire from next term onwards - something many in the Football League are not happy about.

"Where are they going to play?" Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy asked BBC Look East.

"You're only allowed three overage players in the under-21s. If you've got a squad of 24 or 25 and some need to have some football, somebody beneath us could loan one of our players - what's wrong in doing that?

"Harry Kane wouldn't be the England striker without him going to Millwall, Leicester and Norwich. Without having those experiences going out, they don't get to be the players they are today."

History of the transfer window
The present system was introduced for the 2002-03 season
Brought in after agreement between Fifa and the European Commission
Designed to preserve contractual stability for players and clubs, while allowing movement at certain times
Before transfer windows, English clubs could trade players throughout the season until 31 March

The changes will bring an end to 28-day and 93-day loans outside the transfer window, meaning the only loan Kane would not have been able to go on was the one to Leicester, but a different system may have meant different planning for buying clubs.

This season, McCarthy has brought in Arsenal's 18-year-old winger Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has since gone on to make 31 appearances, a total he would probably have got nowhere near if he had stayed with the Premier League title hopefuls.

"It seems to get good young players, who are never, ever going to play in the top team's first team, some experience," said McCarthy. "Where are they going to get it?

"The big teams still won't put them in to their first team, they'll buy somebody else."

But it is not just about developing youngsters. This season, Ipswich's stuttering Championship play-off charge was given new life by bringing in midfielder Ben Pringle from Fulham in February, and he has scored the only goal in two 1-0 wins during his seven games so far.

Ben Pringle
Ben Pringle celebrates his winner against Nottingham Forest for eighth-placed Ipswich Town

Under the new rules, McCarthy would have needed to sign him two weeks earlier in the January transfer window.

That gives clubs a new headache to deal with.

"Once the window shuts, it shuts," said Peterborough director of football Barry Fry.

"What do clubs do? Do they carry a bigger squad to compensate for injuries or suspensions or do they go with what they've got, and if they do pick up a load of injuries, they've got to rely on their youth players. Now are the youth players good enough to make that jump into the first team?

"I can see some clubs carrying 35 or 40 players, which is far too many because they won't be able to afford them anyway and won't be able to get them off the wage bill by loaning them out. It's a crazy decision by Fifa."

However, their feelings are not shared by all in the Football League, with Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale seemingly not too fussed by the changes.

"I'm not passionate about it one way or the other," he said. "We prefer to bring our own players through and if we have the choice to play a developing player at Exeter or someone else's developing player we will go for our own.

"I'm not particularly driven to offer too much of a comment, because it's not something we often use."

One player the League Two club do have on loan is striker Jayden Stockley, signed in January and currently in his ninth loan spell away from parent club AFC Bournemouth.

Loves a loan
Andros Townsend: The England and Newcastle winger had nine loans before breaking through at Tottenham
Trevor Benjamin: The ex-Leicester player had 11 Football League loans in his career
John Marquis: The Millwall player is currently at Northampton in the ninth loan of his career

He is the exact type of player the new ruling will impact. So why go out on loan in the first place?

"I wanted to get out and make my own successes and hopefully build up a career I can be proud of," he told BBC Radio Devon.

"Ultimately this is the level I need to prove myself so I'm not looking at the Premier League, that's a long way off.

"I want to climb the leagues at a steady pace, in a way in which you lay foundations at a steady pace to play higher."

Changes to the loan system may mean that young players at Premier League clubs will end up playing more of their football in the under-21s league.

But, in the words of former Stoke youngster James Alabi, if you are not a player on the verge of the first team or over the age of 18 playing in the under-21s, "you're wasting your time" because of the gap to the senior squad.

Alabi was one of the many players sent out of top-flight clubs to get some experience in the lower-leagues.

He scored 10 minutes into his Football League debut for Scunthorpe but, after a nine-game loan spell at Glanford Park, he then only made a combined total of three starts in his next four loan spells.

It is safe to say he is not a fan of short-term loans.

James Alabi
Alabi (left) spent time on loan with League Two side Accrington Stanley

"As a footballer you need to settle in, get to know players well and they get to know you well," he said. "You can't make as much of an impact as you'd like to unless you have a decent few games, but in football that doesn't always happen.

"It 100% hindered my development. I felt like I didn't have enough time to show what I'd do, the month went by quickly and what happens if you get an injury or a red card?

"I went on loan and got a red card in the first game and they didn't extend the loan."

Via a brief spell at Ipswich, Alabi now finds himself at National League side Chester, where in his sixth match he scored four goals in the first half.

Whatever he or the rest of English football feels about these changes to the loan system, all of the Football League will need to adapt to the changes in a bid to unearth the next Harry Kane.

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