Loan loss jolt for Stoke

THE downside of having a clutch of loan players in your side was highlighted by Stoke City at Colchester United last Saturday and that legacy could continue at Ipswich tomorrow.

By Derek Davis

THE downside of having a clutch of loan players in your side was highlighted by Stoke City at Colchester United last Saturday and that legacy could continue at Ipswich tomorrow.

The players that Tony Pulis brought in to the Britannia Stadium undoubtedly turned the fortunes for the Potters, who went from struggling in the relegation zone to becoming established in the play-off places.

When Salif Diao arrived from Liverpool, Stoke were in 21st position but the Senegalese midfielder helped them to nine wins in 12 games to rocket them up the table.

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Similarly Lee Hendrie from Aston Villa, Andy Griffin from Portsmouth and latterly Liam Lawrence from Sunderland and Patrik Berger, also from Villa, helped City to a seven-game unbeaten run, and a club record 657 minutes without conceding a goal.

All that was shattered at Layer Road when it took just 75 seconds for Jamie Cureton to breach the mean defence and Colchester went on to win 3-0, leapfrogging Stoke who slipped to seventh.

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Significantly Griffin had been recalled by Pompey and didn't play while an ankle injury to Diao meant he too missed out, and with the Reds looking to sell him in January it may be that he won't be risked at Portman Road as well.

The worry that Stoke would crumble without their loan players has surfaced and if they fail to recover at Ipswich tomorrow, those concerns will only increase.

They will also be without the suspended Michael Duberry, a key factor in why they had not conceded in seven hours of football, leaving the defence further weakened.

It will give a chance to youngster Carl Dickinson, who benefited from a loan spell himself at Blackpool.

Ipswich too have looked towards loan players in improving from their bad start to the season and like Pulis, Jim Magilton will be looking to make at least a couple of them permanent.

That Gary Roberts will sign from Accrington Stanley has been an accepted fact for weeks now, confirmed by Roberts to the EADT after the Cardiff game, so that is one in the bag already.

Magilton has also made it plain that he would like to bring Mark Noble back for a second spell from West Ham. The arrival of Alan Curbishley as manager at Upton Park in place of Alan Pardew appears to be a plus for Ipswich, with the player keen to play regularly and known to have enjoyed his loan spell at Ipswich.

The Hammers boss has money to spend in the January window and has indicated midfielders figure high on his list - further limiting Noble's chances.

While Town have accepted that Simon Walton will return to Charlton, who face a relegation battle, it is by no means certain the former Leeds player will be guaranteed a place in Les Reed's side.

Although Iain Dowie's replacement has told Walton he figures in his plans, the revelation that the Addicks have made £1.5m bids each for Hibs duo Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson and are in the chase for former Hearts skipper Stephen Pressley, would indicate Walton's future at The Valley is not necessarily secure.

Jon Macken's form of late has given him a better chance of securing something more permanent at Ipswich with Peter Taylor showing no great desire to keep him at Selhurst Park, but the former Preston player's poor start to his loan period at Ipswich may still put people off.

With only five loan players allowed in a first team squad of 16 on a match day, it can be an art for a manager to balance them against his signed players and getting the right loanees in January can be just as important as making the right full-time signings.

But as we have seen for every upside, there can be a significant downside.

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