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Can Player Loan Activity Change Season Outcome?

Wed 13th May 2015 | Football Club Management

Can Player Loan Activity in the January Window or the Emergency Loan Window Change the Outcome of a Season?

We have looked at the loan dealings during the January Transfer Window and the Emergency Loan Window across the Football League to see if the transfer activity has made a significant impact on the outcome of a club’s season. Do clubs benefit from quality signings or bringing in players on mass?



In the Championship, on average, each club brought in 3.8 players during the spring months. In all instances, the more active clubs, those that brought in 5 players or more, failed to improve on their league position since December 31st.

If we look at the clubs that finished in the top 6, either gaining automatic promotion or earning a play-off place, these clubs were less busy in the spring loan market with, on average, 2.3 players coming in. Ipswich were the busiest club in the top 6 with five players coming in. Despite this activity, Ipswich fell from 2nd on December 31 to finish 6th.

The bottom four clubs were the most active in the league and brought in, on average, 7.75 players. Despite this activity, none of the bottom four managed to improve on their league positions established on December 31. Whilst this may suggest that aggressive loan activity doesn't help, Rotherham may argue that being the busiest club in the league, with 10 players coming in, saved their Championship status.

The interesting debate surrounds the two clubs who narrowly missed out on a playoff place. Wolves were the only club in the league that did not bring in any players on loan between January and March and finished in 7th place, gaining one position versus December 31. Derby, in this period fell from 3rd to 8th and brought in 3 players. Whilst their League performance may be seen as disappointing, it’s hard to argue that the loan signings of Darren Bent and Tom Ince with a combined 21 goals did not benefit their season.


League 1

Clubs that secured a playoff place or automatic promotion brought in, on average, 3.6 players between January and March. Clubs who were relegated were far more active with an average of 7.25 players coming in. The league average was 4.75 players. Notts County had the biggest fall of all clubs within the football league structure falling 12 places post December 31 and were also the most active in League 1 bringing in 10 players during the spring windows.

Not all ‘busy’ clubs were penalised for their activity. Both MK Dons and Barnsley brought in 8 players on loan between January and March. The Milton Keynes side secured automatic promotion and the Yorkshire outfit climbed 5 places since the turn of the year.

2 League 1 clubs took a more selective approach bringing in one player. Walsall acquired the temporary services of Jordy Hiwula. Whilst their league position did not benefit, arguably his 9 goals in 19 appearances proved to be valuable. Ikpeazu was taken in by Crewe from Watford and did not make an appearance. Despite a lack of activity, Crewe managed to climb out of the relegation zone where they resided at the end of 2014.


League 2

Hartlepool climbed off the bottom of the league after bringing in 7 players in the Spring. The clubs relegated to the football league were also active with 11 incoming players at Cheltenham and 7 at Tranmere yet failed to save their football league status.

Whilst, again, it would seem that higher-than-average activity may be ineffective, table topping Burton Albion, the second most active side, brought in 8 players on loan between January and March and climbed to positions to be crowned as champions.

The biggest climbers by way of league position, Dagenham and Redbridge, moved 9 places higher than their new year’s day position, and were quiet in the market bringing in only 2 players who only represented them in total on 10 occasions.



In conclusion, and as might be expected, clubs at the bottom of the leagues were generally busier in the market trying to salvage their seasons with somewhat mixed success. Whist it would be easy to criticise higher than average activity which resulted in clubs facing relegation, Rotherham (Ch), Coventry (L1), Colchester (L1) and Hartlepool (L2) will likely reflect on their busy spring trading activity as saving their current league status. MK Dons and Burton will also reflect on their dealings and are no doubt looking forward to their new league status come August. 

Clubs like Derby and Walsall may be wondering why their signings and the subsequent individual performances have failed to deliver them a chance for promotion in 2015/16.

So the balance between quality and quantity and the resulting outcomes remains a tough question to answer.

If you would like a copy of the loan data covering club activity in 2015 please email contact@playerlens.com 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley



If you have any football business related news stories you’d like to share then please contact us – agourley@fcbusiness.co.uk

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