Rob Fielding applauds Rob Page and his coaching staff for a loan system that is clearly producing results.
Rob Fielding writes…
I read Rob Page’s recent comments on Port Vale’s current loan policy with great interest.
I personally believe that the system Vale have put in place under Page and his coaches is perfect for the Valiants and Nathan Smith’s success at Torquay shows it works.
With Smith, Vale took a local youngster away from the comfort of an occasional month’s loan at a nearby non-league club and sent him away, for a whole season, to the South West. It almost certainly developed Smith not just as a player but also as a person, looking after himself far from family and friends. It reaped dividends with Smith scooping the Torquay player of the year and young player of the year awards. Torquay boss Kevin Nicholson has also sung Smith’s praises.
In the case of Smith, it now means that Vale have a hungry 19 year-old who will be pushing for a first-team place. In this time of playing budget cuts, the timing could not be better.
So what were Page’s comments? He told the Sentinel: “It has worked well. We could have kept him here playing reserve team football but I don’t see that as giving the lads the best chance to develop and become men.
“They have to go out and ply their trade where it does matter if you get beaten on a Saturday. Under-21s football is ok for getting the ball down and playing but I am not convinced it teaches that mentality of winning as well.”
It looks to me like Vale’s loan policy is a simple but effective one. Youngsters need to play senior football to develop.
First of all, a raw youngster goes on loan locally, just to get used to the idea of senior football. This season that has meant the likes of Lewis Bergin, Billy Reeves and Jonny Kapend all going to local non-league clubs. This season, if the trio are kept on they should expect longer spells at a higher grade of football. In fact, I would not be surprised to see one or two sent to Torquay where the club appear to have developed a good relationship.
Meanwhile, this year’s crop of young talent – Dan Turner, James Gibbons and Harry Pickering will take over from Kapend and co, with the trio all strong favourites to be loaned out next season – perhaps initially to local clubs and then for longer spells elsewhere. Of the three, Pickering has already had a spell with Kidsgrove so perhaps is the most ready for a season-long loan elsewhere.
It’s a system that works. Not in all cases – as players will fail to make the grade for any number of reasons – but if the club can produce a Nathan Smith – young, in-form, hungry, experienced and ready for their first-team squad – each season, it will be worth it.