By Kris Patterson and Thomas Arthur.
Here’s a question for you to get you thinking – off the top of your head, how many LFC players (since the 1999/2000 season) have gone out on loan and come back to play 50+ games for the first team? 5? 10? 50? I think the answer may surprise you…
Tom and I have history of ‘debating’ the truisms of Liverpool. Tom’s a cynic, through and through; I’m more of an optimist. So our discussions surrounding all things Liverpool, and indeed life, tend to come from relatively opposite sides of the fence. In TTT tradition, we’re pretty respectful of each other’s views and either come to some sort of agreement or agree to disagree; more of the former than the latter, thankfully.
One such discussion was to do with Liverpool’s loan policy. We’ve been talking about it for years and both have similar views on players at Liverpool – if they’re good enough, they get into the first team squad, regardless of age (there are some good examples of this: TAA; Joe Gomez; Gerrard; Owen; Fowler etc etc). Secondly, neither of us could remember a Liverpool player who’d “done a Beckham/Kane” – ie, been sent out on loan and come back to be a successful part of the first team squad. We’ve collectively racked our brains for some time, bringing the subject up every time there is talk of a player doing well out on loan, and could think of no standouts at our club.
The talk for the last couple of seasons has been about Harry Wilson. His form on loan at Derby last season, the level of some of his preseason showings and his form for Bournemouth this year have all been the trigger for this conversation. And it got us thinking – let’s review the stats and see whether they back up our opinion or not.
I’m a stickler for a stat so decided to do a bit of work on it. Turns out it was quite a lot of work in the end, but I’m nothing if not thorough! My love for Football Manager helped here as the task was relatively formidable – however, if Bielsa can talk through a PowerPoint to a room of journalists about how much research he does and people love him for it, then hopefully people will fully appreciate our efforts too!
Using TransferMarkt and Wikipedia (so all mistakes to be attributed accordingly!), I started in the 1999/00 season (mainly because that’s when TransferMarkt started tracking the data properly). I detailed each loan undertaken with two points of interest – who was loaned out and how many appearances that player made for Liverpool after the loan. Again, all data is inexact but good enough for what we need… From that data, whichever players had the most post-loan appearances would form a shortlist from which we can ultimately deduce if they were a success at, and for, the club.
Now for a spoiler alert, the stats categorically confirm our thoughts/worst fears!
Since 1999/00, Liverpool have sent a total of 157 players on 298 separate loans (clearly lots of duplication of players going on multiple loans in their Liverpool career – eg, Robbie Threlfall had six separate loans).
The rest of this article is for Subscribers only.