Why Portsmouth's ineffective loan recruitment policy has driven ongoing League One promotion failure - and how Lincoln and Blackpool capitalised

Of the 24 players lining-up in Sunday’s League One play-off final, a quarter represented loanees.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 10:11 am
Ross McCrorie was one of the many young loan failures under Kenny Jackett - and it's a market which requires considerable improvement. Picture: Joe Pepler

Young, talented players primarily emanating from Premier League clubs, whose immense influence warranted Wembley starts with a place in the Championship at stake.

Their number may even have been seven, had Blackpool’s Ellis Simms – a loanee from Everton – not collected injury during a penalty shoot-out practice in training the previous day.

Nonetheless, the triumphant Tangerines named Dan Ballard (Arsenal) and Elliot Embleton (Sunderland) in their side.

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Incidentally, exciting winger Rogers is aged 18, while another loanee, Callum Morton (West Brom), came off the bench.

Contrast the effective use of young loanees with Pompey’s four-year League One existence.

History details how Kenny Jackett focused on employing youngsters to bolster his squad rather than providing an essential first-team presence.

Nothing more than bit-part players and stop-gaps – how parent clubs must have winced.

Perhaps Jackett never rated his young loanees, in which case it raises serious questions over recruitment.

Maybe he trusted tried and tested troops over the newcomers, which again brings the calibre of players recruited under scrutiny.

Regardless, not since Matt Clarke’s arrival from Ipswich in 2015-16 – albeit pre-Jackett – has a young loanee made a satisfactory impact at Fratton Park.

Yet Lincoln named four of them in their Wembley line-up, boasting 141 League One starts between them this season

In comparison, Pompey’s four loanees this term totalled 27 league starts, with not all being youngsters.

It has very much been an untapped resource for the Blues, yet a market which other clubs, such as Blackpool and Lincoln, have thrived in during the last 12 months.

In terms of young loanees, admittedly, Jackett was unfortunate with Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, whose injury on his debut would later force premature retirement, while Ben Thompson was no callow rookie but an established Millwall performer.

As for the others, midfielder Ross McCrorie appeared more than 50 times for Rangers before he arrived at Fratton Park to aid his development.

He ended up converted into a right-back, making 12 league starts and never playing for his club again, being sold off to Aberdeen upon his Pompey return.

Andre Green’s lack of action, despite netting in four successive outings, saw him recalled by Aston Villa halfway through his loan and utilised in their successful Championship play-off campaign.

Elsewhere, Anton Walkes arrived on loan from Spurs in January 2018, earning himself a permanent deal, but lasted two years and 53 Pompey starts.

Incidentally, the same window of his arrival, Jackett returned to former club Wolves to sign easily-forgettable pair Sylvain Deslandes and Connor Ronan on loan.

Viv Solomon-Otabor and Steve Seddon arrived from Birmingham in different January windows, yet both had played full seasons elsewhere.

Similarly, Cam Pring had been farmed out for multiple loan spells before arriving at Fratton Park. He was recalled by Bristol City in January.

Harvey White indeed fits the bill of a promising youngster in the need of matches, coming from Spurs.

Yet for all the praise emerging from Fratton Park over the youngster’s talent and attitude, his first loan spell yielded six starts for a League One club.

Incidentally, Morgan Rogers, a year White’s junior, joined Lincoln on loan from Manchester City in the same January month.

His Wembley play-off outing represented a 26th start for the Imps.

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