Loan stars add extra, but at what cost?
THE temporary fix worked wonders for Wanderers – but Dougie Freedman’s next task is to find a permanent solution to the club’s early-season woes.
When the Whites boss moved to bring in three loan recruits last month it was an admission that something was lacking in the squad who had contrived to make the worst start in more than a century.
Unheralded arrivals they may have been but whatever Kevin McNaughton, Neil Danns and Liam Feeney brought to the party has now got Whites fans looking up, rather than down in the early Championship table.
The success of loan deals, rather ironically, comes at a cost. Millwall have not been oblivious to the rave reviews given to Feeney and so it was perhaps to be expected that the Lions CEO Andy Ambler would make a stand before his loan was through.
Unbeknown to most of us, however, there was a clause in the deal that could see the Lions recall their man after only 28 days. That could leave the 26-year-old facing two more games at Bolton before returning to the capital.
Circumstances have changed at The Den in the last few weeks because of the sale of James Henry to Wolves and now manager Steve Lomas is short of options on the right wing. Welcoming back a player who has rediscovered some form at the Reebok would appear a clever move on their part.
Feeney couldn’t buy a start under Lomas before he was loaned out, and with his contract expiring in the summer, sources at Millwall suggest an extension is unlikely; all of which leaves the two clubs in a stalemate.
It would be foolish to think a deal would be done only on the strength of three impressive performances, as Freedman’s prior knowledge of the player is much more extensive than that. If the Whites boss feels the winger is value for money then the biggest hurdle would be convincing Eddie Davies to part with the cash.
There are also question marks over whether Feeney can really continue at this high level of performance?
Jay Spearing, pictured, stood out head and shoulders as a model of consistency for Wanderers last season on loan from Liverpool but looked below par after the move was made permanent earlier this season.
The midfielder’s form has since recovered but it is a common trait in most loan players that their initial impact lessens after they secure regular football elsewhere.
For their part, Millwall are in a strong position to barter. Feeney cost £350,000 from Bournemouth two-and-a-half years ago and so the financial reward of selling him before the summer is negligible.
For Lomas to bring him back into a struggling squad may have a similar effect as it did for Freedman.
A deal could well boil down to the reaction of those ousted by Feeney a few weeks ago.
Chris Eagles, David Ngog and Chung-Yong Lee have all been out of the equation recently, leading to suggestions they could be moved on in January to pave the way for Freedman to make more wide-ranging changes to his squad.
Even if that were possible, it could not be achieved until January, leaving the Whites with just over two tricky months of fixtures to keep some sort of forward momentum going.
Feeney’s difficult situation is unlikely to be mirrored in the other two loanees, McNaughton and Danns.
Cardiff boss Malky Mackay has already given his blessing to experienced full-back McNaughton to stay on until Christmas at Wanderers should he so wish.
Danns is also well out of the first team reckoning at Leicester City and likely to see out the full three months of his loan, which expires just before the trip to the King Power Stadium on December 29.