OWEN Coyle has hit back at critics who claim he has “abused” the loan system.

Daniel Sturridge lines up against Aston Villa looking to score in his fifth consecutive game for Wanderers but his success since arriving from Stamford Bridge has prompted some in the media to question the merits of top-flight clubs being able to loan players between themselves.

Just as Jack Wilshere did on his arrival from Arsenal last season, Sturridge’s arrival has been a shot in the arm for the Whites – but Coyle feels he has nothing to apologise for, after paying a seven-figure sum to land the England Under-21 international until the end of the season.

“We’ve taken on the player’s salary and a loan fee, which happens, and any manager up and down the country is entitled to do the same thing,” he said.

“My argument to those who disagree would be do you let those young players just sit and not improve, and lose what could be a glittering career?

“They are at some of the best clubs in the world and can’t get in because they have £50million strikers in the same positions. You look at Jack Wilshere, pictured, last year and he found himself out of the Arsenal team because of Cesc Fabregas, one of the top players in that position in the entire world. We’re adhering to the same rules as everyone else. What you do as a manager is back your judgment. I’ve never been afraid to play young players because I believe in their ability and I’m prepared to give them an opportunity. If they continue to improve, then all good and well, if they don’t then maybe you look at them and say ‘you’re not ready yet’.”

Premier League rules state clubs can loan two players from within the same division, although they are prevented from playing against their parent clubs.

Coyle has already started to analyse the top squads for potential loanees for next season but will wait until the summer to ask Carlo Ancelotti if he would be ready to give Sturridge another season in the North West.

“It’s a question best left until the end of the season,” he said. “With every passing week, though, it seems the opportunity diminishes.”

Sturridge joined an elite group of six players who scored in their first four games for Premier League clubs last week at Newcastle – the others being Mick Quinn and Dion Dublin (both Coventry City), Emanuel Adebayor (Manchester City), Ian Marshall (Ipswich Town) and Darren Bent (Charlton).