The Monday Profile: George Donnelly
Three weeks ago I used Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy as an example of how larger clubs have exploited the loan system to their own ends, to the possible detriment of the players involved. The subject of this week’s Profile shows the other side of the coin, whereby a player surplus to requirements at his parent club can use a loan move to get his career back on track. Football can be a fickle game, and the dividing line between success and failure can depend on many factors aside from talent. Success requires a player to be playing in the right environment, at the right level of club under the right management. George Donnelly has never come close to establishing himself at Plymouth Argyle since his £100,000 move from Skelmersdale United in 2009, but has impressed in his two loan spells at Stockport County and has scored five goals already this term. Since two of our resident bloggers support the loaning and loanee clubs respectively, we thought it would be good to hear the two reflect on the 22-year-old Liverpudlian.
Lloyd – Plymouth Argyle fan:
‘There was always something a little odd about George Donnelly signing for Argyle at the end of the 2008-09 season. In possession of a flock of underperforming but handsomely-paid strikers, the then manager Paul Sturrock seemed to snap the Merseysider up because he was cheap and young rather than for any redeeming quality that the Greens lacked. The nineteen year old rookie had been banging them in for Skelmersdale in the Northern League, but nothing suggested that the youngster was ready to play his part in keeping a struggling side in the second tier.
First impressions lived up to the indifference as Donnelly was tasked with rallying the troops via late substitute appearances in two dire, humiliating end-of-season home defeats. Provided with no service in a demoralised team, he failed to make a name as the inertia really started to set in at Home Park ahead of what was to be relegation season. After failing to emerge over the summer of 2009, he found himself behind further new arrivals Bradley Wright-Phillips, Alan Gow and Cillian Sheridan and a place on the bench was more than he could hope for, so it was no surprise that he went out on loan, first to Luton and then to Stockport.
He had a good go over this past pre-season, and looked decent enough in the few friendlies he played but finances dictated when the Hatters knocked on the door for a second time. His goals for Stockport have not gone unnoticed down Devon way, but with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, it’s likely that the next few months will be a mere shop window. Even though he’s likely to be on modest wages, the Pilgrims simply aren’t in a position to pick and choose who stays in the squad and who leaves. Donnelly’s badge-kiss after scoring a week ago against Macclesfield suggests that he’ll lose no sleep over such an outcome.’
scarf – Stockport County fan:
‘Donnelly had been on the radar of County fans for a while before he signed for the club. We were heavily linked with him when he was at Skelmersdale, and then-manager Jim Gannon certainly wanted to sign him. Unfortunately our financial problems had just begun to come to light at the time Plymouth bid for him, so there was no realistic prospect of us paying the £100,000 transfer fee. Most County fans then promptly forgot about him – just another transfer target that got away and small news compared to the off-field calamities going on at the time, but his signature on loan in January 2010 was a welcome boost to our beyond threadbare squad. In a team long since condemned to relegation, Donnelly’s workrate and enthusiasm won the appreciation of the supporters. The general feeling was that, of the 6 signings made in the transfer window, Donnelly was the only unqualified success.
Nobody particularly expected to see George back in a County shirt this season and, whilst there were rumours all summer, they were more out of wishful thinking than genuine expectation. I certainly expected George to be given a go at Plymouth, particularly since their relegation meant they would have to get rid of some of their higher earners. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when Donnelly returned on a six-month loan prior to the start of the season.
Promising as he was last season, it is fair to say the impact Donnelly has had so far this season has been as surprising as it has been remarkable. He has been County’s standout player in every one of our games so far, and has scored five of our six league goals. His workrate, pace, power and awareness have made him one of the standout players in the division so far and he has almost single handedly carried County away from the foot of the table. I said at the start of the season that my sole ambition for us this year was to stay up, and keeping Donnelly in January will be central to that. The aforementioned badge kissing and subsequent interviews have indicated that he is very settled here, but with a lack of money continuing to be an issue, it remains a worry that a rival club with slightly more cash to flash will snap him up in the transfer window. With his contract expiring, Argyle will be keen to realise what is quickly becoming a highly saleable asset. County fans can only hope that the new Board of Directors can find the funds to keep the player on which our short-term future surely rests.’