Everton & the psychology of the loan market

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By @nataliebargery

Everton have certainly taken advantage of the loan system this season. Not only do we have three notable loanees in our first team squad but we have also loaned out younger players to gain first team experience in the lower leagues. Furthermore, the January window is looming large and we need cover for the injured pair; Gibson and Kone. Consequently, two new loanees seem certain to be arriving by January 31st, potential room for the return of Denis Stracqualursi? Maybe not! Nevertheless, the squad will likely finish the season with a number of temporary players on our books. We know why clubs use the loan system but how do loans help the players?

Loans for development

Players are loaned for varying purposes. Some are young and need games at another club to develop. We, of course, currently have Lukaku and Deulofeu learning and maturing under Martinez. Furthermore, we have loaned Shane Duffy, John Lundstram, Luke Garbutt and Francisco Junior to Yeovil, Colchester and Vitesse Arnhem, respectively.  All these players have a point to prove while they play for their loan club. Some are trying to impress their parent club so they can return and become an important player for them. Others are playing to earn a contract at their new club as it is unlikely they will return to their parent club (I wish this was true for Lukaku and Deulofeu).

Both of our development loanees have arrived with big reputations for players so young. Johan Cruyff was surprised Barcelona lent Deulofeu to us, while the whole of England fell off their chairs watching Sky Sports New on Monday 2nd September when Chelsea let Romelu leave for the season. This subject has been talked to death in the national media, so I won’t labour the point or use it as a way to switch the topic away from Everton to Chelsea, which has become a common ploy across TV and radio so far this season. However, the Belgian has a point to prove to Mourinho, after stating in an interview this summer that he intended to play for Chelsea this season and not go out on loan, a U-turn duly followed as Lukaku pushed for a move to avoid spending the season on the bench. Consequently, both Deulofeu and Lukaku have started their Everton careers with a great deal of expectation and pressure to perform, from the fans but particularly in Lukaku’s case, he will have high expectations for himself.

Martinez initially shielded Deulofeu and allowed him time to settle. However, the big Belgian has been thrown in the deep end and is thriving. This demonstrates how their backgrounds are important to the success of a loan on a short term basis. Lukaku has previous Premier league experience, contrary to Deulofeu. Consequently, it was inevitable Romelu would make a more immediate impact than the skilful Catalan but Deulofeu has proven, in recent weeks, he will make a big impression over the course of the season, along as the ‘few weeks’ he’s predicted to be out for is right and his hamstring does not become an ongoing problem. Rangers came surprisingly close to getting Lionel Messi on loan in his formative years and if his ability to waltz past Premier league defenders as if they’re not there is anything to go by, we may have a future world star on our books.

Furthermore, our bruising Belgian has the undeniable potential to become one of the best strikers in the world. The problem is, whether it is this summer or maybe the one after, at some point we are going to have to give them back.

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Loans for out of favour players

Everton have managed to acquire a number of players in recent years, who were out of favour at their clubs, on initial loans but their performances were so impressive they were snapped up full time. Arteta, Howard and Pienaar (x2) all initially arrived on loan after making few appearances for their parent club. This is also true for our third loanee of the season, Gareth Barry. I also find it baffling that Javi Garcia is considered a better bet than Barry, but Pellegrini’s judgement has worked out extremely well for Everton. Finally, a blog concerning Everton’s loan history cannot ignore the most significant and effective loan in Premier league history.

Kevin Campbell arrived at Goodison Park, following racist abuse from senior officials at his parent club, Trabzonspor. Everton were fighting another relegation battle and in need of goals. Campbell hit the ground running scoring 9 goals in 8 games and we were once again safe from relegation. Super Kev’s ability to effortlessly slot into the team and start scoring immediately kept us up that year. However, considering the turbulent time he had endured at Trabzonspor to adapt so quickly was even more impressive. In fact, all players who arrive at loan clubs because they were out of favour at their parent club are more than likely low on confidence and out of touch. Subsequently, their chances of making an instant impact would appear low, yet many like Super Kev and Gaz Baz, have managed it.

However, this is not true of all loanees and the arrivals of the permanently despondent looking Phillippe Senderos, languid Jo and the untamable Royston Drenthe prove you can’t always turn a player’s career round in one loan spell. The success or failure of a loan, in this situation, may be in part due to a player’s individual personality or the effect a new environment can have. It has been proposed that personality, environment and the interaction between the two accounts for 30-50% of a sportsperson’s behaviour. Consequently, a change in environment can reinvigorate players in a slump and create new motivation. It has been proven in business settings that efficiency increases with an alteration in environment. If you consider the likely path of a player embarking on this type of loan starting with a slump in form, causing a lack of games, resulting in loss of confidence and motivation, it is evident that the offer of a loan is a clear chance for a player to turn it all around in a manner they probably couldn’t foresee when they weren’t getting a look in at their parent club. So, a vital aspect of the loan system is the chance to breathe new life into maligned players and not just provide a crèche for the youngsters.

Loans for fitness

A third reason to embark on a loan is for fitness. Landon Donovan arrived for two short term loans in January 2010 and 2012 during the MLS off-season. His initial 10 week loan offered Donovan the chance to maintain sharpness in the run-up to the World cup. However, I think the second loan spell was simply because he couldn’t keep away and we hadn’t forgotten about him either. The American had a great opportunity to perform, due to the recent conclusion of the MLS season on both occasions. He was fully fit and raring to go and consequently, he made the biggest impression on Everton supporters in the shortest time frame.

Players are also loaned out during their recuperation from a long term injury. James Vaughan was sent on loan following any one of his horror injuries. It is a pattern often repeated for players to gain valuable match fitness when their parent clubs cannot accommodate them. Moreover, it is an opportunity for long term injured players to regain confidence in both their own ability and the injured area. We have already been linked with loaning two MLS stars in January, it has been suggested Donovan could return for a third spell and the return of the blue kangaroo, Tim Cahill has been mooted, both to retain fitness in a world cup year. If either does return it would make a sentimental and very welcome Christmas present from Roberto.

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Emergency Loans

Finally, emergency loans are often necessary, particularly for goalkeepers. We took happy slapper Sander Westerveld on loan for a handful of matches in 2006, following the injury and suspension of Nigel Martyn, Richard Wright and Iain Turner.  This type of loan offers players a small window to make an impact but nevertheless, they wouldn’t have been loaned out if it was not necessary for them to impress their parent club, so they need to take advantage of the chance. This puts a great deal of pressure on them to perform in, often a very short space of time.

The loan system has been analysed from almost every angle but an area where there is startlingly little research or even just consideration are the challenges that can affect the player on loan.

Need to settle quickly

It is not easy for any new signing to make an instant impact at their new club. New signings are afforded time and often given a season to adapt to the Premier league if they have arrived from a foreign country but this is not possible for players on loan. The longest they are likely to be with their loan club is a season and others are only signed for up to 6 months or less. In reality this makes the chances of a new foreign player succeeding on loan slim. Furthermore, a player’s family also needs to be considered.

The upheaval of moving to a new country or a different part of a country is huge. This may be worthwhile if a player signs a five year contract but is it worth it for up to a season? Are the players’ kids essentially ‘on loan’ to another school for nine months? A footballer’s chances of settling quickly and performing on the pitch are significantly increased if his family are with him yet, players will often choose to avoid the disruption for their family and move on their own. So, despite the need to perform for their future, players are left isolated in their new environment.

Regardless of these difficulties, managers continue to sign foreign loanees and players can flourish under these circumstances. Gerard Deulofeu may prove to be the best example of a success story concerning a foreign player arriving on loan to England and settling remarkably quickly. This may be because he is young and arrived without the baggage of a wife and kids. Like a teenager leaving home for the first time to go to university, there is an excitement and a chance for independence they have not experienced before.  So, may be younger players or players without wives and children, stand a better chance of succeeding on loan when they have moved from a foreign country, although this of course, cannot be considered fact without further research.  There are currently a large number of players on loan to premier league clubs.

The two biggest successes at this moment have to be Loic Remy and the big man himself, Romelu Lukaku. It is no real surprise that just a third of the way into the season the loan markets best acquisitions are two players that spent last season playing in the Premier League. Moreover, one of the loan signings who has struggled to make an impact on their club is Aly Cissokho, a foreign player who has never played in England before (or maybe that’s just the effect Liverpool has on players!) It seems evident that players, particularly foreigners, need time to settle at their new clubs but time is a precious commodity in football and is often not afforded to loanees. Louis Saha wrote that players are “tested quickly and judged on the bad things he does, not just the good.” So, the pressure is on for all loan signings to make a good impression quickly.

Rodrigo-l

Rodrigo-l

Adapting

A transfer to a new club, even a short term loan, is a significant transition in a player’s career which offers new challenges and difficulties. Players experience a number of changes both in their sporting and personal lives that they have to adapt to. For example, a player’s identity may alter at a new club as they may have been an unused substitute, receiving little attention from their own or opposition fans. At their new club they may play every week and become a star player. This will inevitably result in adulation from your own fans and more slating from opposition fans, which the player is not used to. Other changes may include income (either a higher or a lower wage), adapting to a new style of play, training regime and environment. Additionally, foreign signings have to adapt to a new league.

However, once again, the necessity to acclimatize is brought into sharp focus for players on loan to do it quickly. A prime example of a player observing and consequently, adapting his game, on loan, is Denis Stracqualursi. El Traka arrived with little to no grasp of English and went onto to become a cult hero in one season at Goodison. He lacked technical skill but made up for it with a work rate that would make James McCarthy look lazy! Moyes praised the big Argentinian for his attitude, “We didn’t know he could work that hard…We’d gone to see him over in Argentina and we didn’t come away thinking this was a really hard working centre forward. He’s come here and he’s picked up on that himself, and thought this is what he had to do. So good on the boy.” Strac’s willingness and ability to adapt his game in half a season for a club he was only going to be with for one season reflects well on him, as a person and despite his limitations as a player, he deserved the plaudits he received. In contrast, Jo arrived on loan and despite possessing a lot more skill than Denis and scoring a few goals (which he always milked excessively) he did not adapt. Consequently, Jo will not be remembered quite so fondly by Evertonians.

Motivation

Ultimately, the difference between Strac and Jo was motivation. As I’ve discussed players have varying motivations to succeed on loan, to either impress their parent club or loan club or maybe because a sportsman’s winning mentality will not allow them to fail no matter who they play for. As discussed earlier, personality and the environment are vital, particularly when determining an individual’s levels of motivation. This is because someone who is always determined to do well or wants to do well for their particular club are motivated to succeed. Players tend to be self-motivated and that’s why they have managed to become professional footballers but other factors can affect motivation levels. For example, it may be possible that another motivation for some players is the short-term nature of loans.

A key issue for players on loan is their uncertain future. To be on loan there must be some sort of question mark over the player at their parent club, even if it is just as simple as needing games elsewhere before progressing to the first team, the player is still not currently good enough to play for their parents club’s first team and there must be some doubt if they will ever be. Consequently, players on loan can be plagued with self-doubt and anxiety at a time when they need to grab the opportunity with their loan club and perform.

Some loans are better than others....

Some loans are better than others….

Alternatively, players can view uncertainty as a motivation. David Weir wrote in his autobiography that “if every player was on a year’s contract you would get a higher level of performance”.  Weir was referring to his experiences in the latter years of his career when he was offered one year contracts each summer which he viewed as an annual ‘fresh challenge’. This feeling is comparable to a player on loan as, like Weir, they have a season or less to prove their worth. Weir shunned the security of two year contracts at other clubs to gain the motivation and thrill he found in attempting to achieve more short term goals.

Players need to approach their time on loan with a similar attitude. Furthermore, some players seem to thrive under the pressure to prove their ability on loan. Steven Pienaar’s best two spells with us where, arguably, his two loan stints. Moreover, my Dad assures me that Terry Curran was unbelievable during his month long loan in 1982.Consequently, Everton eventually signed him on a permanent basis. However, Curran was never able to recreate his loan exploits, during his two and a half seasons with the club and he left on a free. So, there is evidence to suggest players can thrive on loan as they cannot recreate the buzz and motivation on permanent deals. Yet a player’s motivation to play for a loan club may vary. We all want to believe that every footballer plays because of their love of football and enjoyment playing the game, known as intrinsic motivation.

Alternatively, fans do not want footballers to be doing it for money, fame etc, this is known as extrinsic motivation. However, this is not just an idealistic view as research suggests intrinsic motivation has a positive effect on performances. Furthermore, if a player feels competent, feels they have a choice and are acting of their own free will and feel connected with others within their environment then they feel greater intrinsic motivation. It was extremely important for Lukaku and Deulofeu to become intrinsically motivated to play for Everton and not simply playing for the reward of returning to Chelsea and Barcelona, respectively, in order to get the best out of them. It seems evident that the three factors to help players become intrinsically motivated have been taken into account. Deulofeu has praised Martinez for “giving me the confidence and I’m very happy,” thus, helping the young Catalan feel competent.

Furthermore, Lukaku has commented on discussions he has had with the manager about future opposition and weaknesses he has noticed in their game. By listening to Lukaku, Martinez has given him the opportunity to take some control and feel like he has a voice and I don’t think any of us would argue with the big Belgian! Finally, Lukaku commented, after his home debut that his teammates made him “feel at ease” very quickly after his arrival; as a result he felt a connection in his new environment. So, motivation is not just a stable unalterable asset. It may be enhanced or take a nose-dive depending on a range of factors and they need to be recognised for a loan signings to succeed.

Control

Finally, control may be important to a loan’s success. Control not only affects intrinsic motivation, as cited above but it could affect the success of a loan as early as the day the transfer is completed. To explain further, rather than the clubs controlling the transfer, if the player had an opportunity to ask for the loan or at least decide on the club, then that control may help the player to succeed. Control decreases anxiety and can increase feelings of self-competence and confidence. Furthermore, research shows athletes who retire through uncontrollable factors such as, injury, age and deselection can find it more difficult to adjust than athletes who retire because they chose to and so, controlled the decision. In terms of the significance of control during a transfer, a similar thought process could be applied.

So, players who choose to move may adjust better than those forced to. It has been widely reported that Lukaku asked to leave in the summer and has since experienced a somewhat spiky relationship with Jose Mourinho, but no one can doubt the immediate proof he made the right choice. We’ll never know the answer to this question but if Mourinho had told Lukaku he was being sent on loan against the striker’s wishes, would he have made such an instant impact? The influence of control may also explain why out of favour players have made a success of their loan spells. If you are out of favour at your parent club, it is more than likely you have pushed to get out on loan and had some control of the situation. Gareth Barry was ‘desperate’ to join us in the summer and his since been imperious for us. Furthermore, Kevin Campbell pushed to get away and then became the most successful loanee in Premier league history. In truth, it should always be the manager who has the control and has the final say on everything. However, if the manager can adopt a democratic/ participative decision making style, thus giving the illusion of control to players, there is likely to be positive outcomes, including team cohesion.

It has recently come to light that Apostolos Vellios has refused to go out on loan. However, if Martinez wanted to he could force Vellios to leave but it appears, at least for the time-being, Martinez is allowing the Greek striker to make the decision for himself. Therefore, he is giving Vellios the opportunity to take control of his future and is hoping to see the results either in training or by allowing Vellios to choose when he goes on loan and consequently, the striker will perform better while he is away.

Conclusion

Overall, the loan system has been kind to Everton, and never more so than this season. We have had our flops but you could take the view that the failed loanees prove the worth of the loan system even more than the success stories. The club has paid very little for a dud loanee but may have had to pay a few million more if they signed him initially on a permanent deal. We do not only have the incoming successes of Donovan, Campbell, Pienaar et al but younger players who went on loan and came back better players. Leon Osman, Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley had temporary spells in the Championship and came back to become club and international stars.

The reasons for the success and failure of loans clearly vary widely between an individual’s personality, the circumstances of the loan or their new environment. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for a manager to judge whether to take a player on loan or not. However, Everton clearly have the knack for getting players on loan to perform. So, don’t let any reds tell you our success so far this season is unfair because we have three players on loan. It’s not our fault their loan signings have been rubbish. So, as their former sponsors would say, if Carlsberg did loan signings we’d probably have the best loan signings in the world!

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3 thoughts on “Everton & the psychology of the loan market

  1. How could forget Big Dunc!!!! He started out as a loan deal with Rangers and stayed. It shows that, with the others mentioned in you blog, that some teams are better at this than others. And we need to be considering our budget restraints. Nice peice though #COYB

  2. Yeh, good article. I think language can be a big factor in settling fast as well. I think martinez understanding not only the language but culture of deulofeu has helped. Same with mirallis and lukaku.

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