Asking an Eastbourne Borough fan to remember the names of all the season’s loan players is like asking a chef to recall every meal he’s ever made.
At the time of writing there are 13 names – those who have arrived for a match or a month flickering briefly then disappearing again. Liam O’Brien, in September, was the first, while Damian Spencer, George Purcell and Tommy Forecast are the three who remain.
Boss Garry Wilson said in the autumn, “When you have a small squad and pick up injuries, loan signings are crucial to a club like ours.
“There are some very good players out there who are not getting a game so it’s a good arrangement for us and them.”
They have flown in from all corners of the south, and even as far afield as York. But has this sticking-plaster approach to squad building worked?
On 15 occasions in the Blue Square Bet Premier Wilson and Nick Greenwood have included two or more loanees in their starting line-up. Of these matches they have won once – at Forest Green in September, drawn three and lost 11, conceding, in all, 36 times and scoring 13.
The games in which no loan players started, Boro’ have won three, drawn three and lost two, scoring 21 times and conceding 15.
Signing a player on loan is not so easy as making a phone call and cutting up an extra orange. These footballers come with baggage – demands and requests from their parent clubs.
They are often unable to make the evening training sessions with the part-time Sports and instead prepare elsewhere during the day.
“They can’t always train with us when they’re at professional clubs,” explains top scorer Richard Pacquette. “But they’re all good players, they’ve all chipped in, they’re doing as well as they can for the club.”
Steve Cook, who played seven games on loan from Brighton, admitted shortly after joining, “Coming and playing first-team football, it brings the game to life. Reserve football can go a bit dead, but when you’re playing for points it’s different.”
Luke Rooney, who returned to the Gillingham starting line-up after leaving Priory Lane, was another success story. But by their nature, these deals are short-term, and the management duo struggle to find consistency in selection.
As injuries continued to bite, Wilson and Greenwood found the loan market as frustrating as it was beneficial, after a string of moves fell through at the 11th hour.
And now, as they continue to shuffle their pack in search of that elusive victory, the door remains open for further loanees.
PFA Assistant Chief Executive Bobby Barnes told Herald Sport, “I think loans can very much be to the benefit of players – there’s nothing more demoralising to a player than training all week, then not getting a game.”
But the former West Ham winger added, “From a personal point of view, I would like to see a better balance.
“As a supporter I’d probably feel more comfortable seeing players there who are longer-term.”