In the modern game, the loan system is an asset utilised by clubs worldwide, from Bristol to Berlin, the option of loaning in another club’s player can prove beneficial for both the clubs and the individual involved. In recent years, Rovers have had their fair share of “hits” and “misses” when it comes to the loan market and the 2016/17 campaign has been no different. In this article, I will be assessing our current crop of loanees (as well as our first team players currently out on loan) and casting my eye over what I believe their chances of playing in the famous blue and white next season are.
Arriving on loan from divisional rivals Peterborough United at the beginning of the season, James can still be counted as an up and coming prospect despite already amassing just short of 170 football league appearances to date. Bursting onto the scene as a youngster at boyhood team Hartlepool United, the striker began scoring goals consistently at the tender age of 17 and unsurprisingly garnered attention from a number of reputable clubs. In the 5 years since, James’s career seems to have stalled somewhat and he arrived at Rovers after unsuccessful spells at parent club Peterborough United as well as loan periods at Bradford City and a second spell back in Hartlepool. The diminutive forward has only been making Darrell Clarke’s starting 11 since the departure of Matt Taylor at the end of January and has impressed despite failing to score in his 18 league outings for The Gas.
Thus far James seems to be a polarising figure among fans with his admirable work rate earning plaudits from the terraces, however ultimately he will perhaps be judged on his goal tally at the end of the season. There is no doubt that the 22-year-old could open his account before the end of the campaign and Darrel Clarke’s willingness to stick with the striker suggests that a permanent deal could still be on the cards, however, much of this depends on how he performs in the crucial final seven games.
With Steve Mildenhall unlikely to be a future option for Rovers and Will Puddy coming under fire from some fans, the search for a new number 1 was well and truly on in January. Truth be told, the club have been looking for a long-term goalkeeping option for some time now and Joe Lumley has all the attributes needed to develop into a brilliant shot-stopper. The leadership and acrobatic ability of the young man have ensured that he has hardly put a foot wrong in his time between the sticks for us and factoring in that he is still just 22, the tall QPR loanee has plenty of time to iron out any flaws in his game.
There was understandably some scepticism from the fan base upon the arrival of Lumley due to the perceived need for an older, more experienced player to fill Mildenhall’s boots but the keeper has shown maturity beyond his years when marshalling the Gas defence. It’s no surprise that an impressive string of clean sheets have coincided with Lumley’s arrival and seemingly being surplus to requirements at Queens Park Rangers bodes well for fans eager to see him signed permanently. His parent club already have two recognised first team goalkeepers so don’t be surprised to see Lumley making his switch to Rovers permanent.
Another key figure in Rovers recent impressive defensive displays has been young Stoke loanee Ryan Sweeney. Much in the mould of former fan favourite Steve Elliot, the Irishman has transitioned seamlessly into only his second season of playing league football. Formerly of AFC Wimbledon, the 19-year-old is a no-nonsense centre-half who seems to have brought out the best in his defensive partner Tom Lockyer (who himself has shown remarkable improvements as of late).
Commanding displays at the back from Sweeney have made it clear why Premier League Stoke decided to pay a fee for the youngster and although it seems unlikely Rovers will be able to snap him up permanently so soon after a big money move, a season-long loan for the 2017/18 campaign seems more than likely. Standout displays in League 1 could see Stoke looking to ship young Ryan out to a Championship club next year so much may depend on the division Rovers find themselves in next year.
Along with fellow Chelsea loan signing Charlie Colkett, much was expected of the England under-20 regular upon his arrival at The Memorial Stadium, however, injuries and a lack of opportunities have restricted John Terry’s protégé to just eight appearances. Being a Chelsea academy graduate meant that Jake made his way to Rovers with a lofty reputation that he perhaps struggled to fulfil.
Complimentary words from former England star Terry ensured that the 19-year-old had an incredibly tough task in ensuring he made an instant impact and in some ways he did, most notably a well-taken goal against Oldham Athletic. A fractured arm sustained in the very same game meant that the Londoner remained out of action for several months in which time his place in the team was taken up by fellow loanee Ryan Sweeney. Although still just a young man, Jake may need some more time to develop in the Chelsea academy system or on loan at a fellow League One club where a first team place would be guaranteed, and for that reason, it looks unlikely we will see the talented centre back playing for us next season.
Gibraltar international Gosling has found himself low down in the pecking order at Rovers and for that reason has been loaned out to a number of clubs, still just 23, the winger has a chance of featuring in the first team again but in all probability, he will be let go when his contract expires.
Amassing somewhat of a cult following his Conference play-off final heroics for Rovers, the bearded goalkeeper has somewhat similarly to Gosling found himself low down in the pecking order due to the form of the aforementioned Joe Lumley. Currently on loan at Conference club and recent FA Cup heroes Sutton United, unfortunately, it looks like we may have seen Puddy make his final appearance in the blue and white quarters.
Feature Image Credit: Chris Clements on Wikipedia