Home from a loan: the Championship's best temporary moves
Alistair Hendrie gives his opinion on the five best loan players in the Championship last season.
1. Wayne Routledge (Queen’s Park Rangers, on loan from Newcastle United)
Wayne Routledge, who has played for six different Premier League clubs without ever really finding his feet, was bench warming for Newcastle before Neil Warnock brought him to Loftus Road on loan — a move that saw him return to a former club. And what a great gamble that was.
A late winner against Coventry wasn’t a bad way to make his debut and five goals and six assists since his move in January made him one of the Championship’s most productive wingers. Routledge’s boundless pace and dynamism when running through the middle or down either flank was a source of much fruition for his club. In what looks to be a summer of uncertainty for QPR fans, the locals will hope Routledge goes against his word and stays in west London for good.
2. Fabio Borini (Swansea City, on loan from Chelsea)
Pressure affects players in different kinds of ways. Swansea’s Fabio Borini, on loan from Chelsea, seems to thrive off it. In his first ever professional start, the Italian scored two poacher’s efforts and could have had a hatful more in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Nottingham Forest.
Borini scored 6 goals in 11 games for the Welshmen and his quick movement hurried Reading’s Zurab Khizanishvili into a clumsy foul to win his side a crucial penalty, leading to their winner in the play-off final. A dead ball specialist, Borini has now moved to Parma after Chelsea’s £50m swoop for Fernando Torres signalled that first team opportunities might be at a premium for the talented 20-year-old.
3. Kyle Naughton (Leicester City, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
A derby day goal is always a good way to endear yourself to fans at your new club. Leicester’s Kyle Naughton knows this after his stunning equaliser against Coventry. After running to the edge of the visitors’ box, Naughton darted to the left and unleashed an 18-yard rocket into the top left hand corner.
Five strikes from open play this season for his loan club stress his appetite for goals and his acrobatic celebrations are just as eye-catching. Just one in a string of young, English, attack-minded full-backs drawing comparisons with Ashley Cole, Naughton has won nine caps for England Under-21s and is currently at the European Under-21 Championships in Denmark.
4. Mikele Leigertwood (Reading, on loan from QPR)
When Reading captured Mikele Leigertwood on loan from QPR in November, the move barely registered on the Richter scale. However, it took Leigertwood a mammoth 20 matches to taste defeat in a Reading shirt as his move prompted the Royals’ charge up the table. That was enough for the former Crystal Palace man to sign a contract with the Madejski Stadium side.
Leigertwood can slot into various positions in both defence and midfield but has excelled this season alongside Jem Karacan in central midfield. His cool passing and hassling of opponents in the centre are his best attributes, but he is also not short of a well placed trick or two. Expect Leigertwood and his team-mates to bother the top two places next season.
5. Aiyegbeni Yakubu (Leicester City, on loan from Everton)
The Championship can do wonders for Premier League misfits. Few Everton fans could imagine Yakubu, their Nigerian international, cushioning the ball on his thigh, gracefully swivelling and then firing a half volley into the back of the net.
That’s exactly what he did against Leicester’s East Midlands rivals Derby County. Scorer of one of the Foxes’ goals of the season, he also snuck into the 6-yard box to poke home against Bristol City, and stuck the knife in against one of his former sides, Middlesbrough, with a hat-trick. 11 goals in 20 games under the wing of Sven-Goran Eriksson made him one of the Championship’s most feared predators.
Best of the rest
Henri Lansbury (Norwich City, on loan from Arsenal)
The Arsenal youngster set the tone for a fantastic season with an assist and a sterling performance in his debut in the East Anglian derby against Ipswich. At 20 years old, Lansbury is one of the hottest prospects in the country.
Craig Bellamy (Cardiff City, on loan from Manchester City)
Bellamy caused tremors with this loan transfer, one of biggest stories of the season. His campaign ended in play-off heartache after the Bluebirds’ loss to Reading, but he injected pace and fearless attacking play into his home town side.
Jack Cork (Burnley, on loan from Chelsea)
Cork was a highlight in a season which Burnley largely looked to find their feet and consolidate despite the impressive start to the tenure of Eddie Howe. Versatile in many positions in defence, Cork is one of many blossoming Chelsea youngsters and is rated at £2m.
Kris Boyd (Nottingham Forest, on loan from Middlesbrough)
Maybe he was just a striker in need of better service, but Middlesbrough’s Scottish misfit looked a different player at Forest under Billy Davies. Possessing shrewd movement in the penalty area and always a nuisance for defenders, Boyd scored braces against Scunthorpe and Bristol City.
Ramon Nunez (Scunthorpe United, on loan from Leeds United)
In a move which came a few months too late to save doomed Scunthorpe, the Honduras international injected some creativity and spark into Alan Knill’s ailing side. Nunez is an exciting midfielder with an eye for a long-range spectacular.