By Chris Dunlavy
AS the latches are lifted on the January transfer window, managers across the EFL will be keeping an eagle eye on the big boys above stairs.
Premier League sides are allowed only 25 named players in their squad, meaning any fresh signings could push fringe players out of the picture.
For these outcasts, the only option is a loan or even a permanent move, with the Championship the most likely destination.
Last year proved how invaluable such players can be: Burnley’s Michael Kightly scored four times to aid Burton’s survival efforts, while Bournemouth loanee Lewis Grabban struck three vital goals as Reading cemented a play-off place.
Grabban, curiously enough, could be on the move again. He’s been prolific on loan at Sunderland and the Cherries are planning to recall the striker and cash in while his stock’s high.
Chuck in youngsters ripe for a loan and the top flight is positively teeming with high-quality scraps. Here are ten of the best:
“I think Nelson can be something special,” said former Gunner Martin Keown after watching the young winger in action against Cologne. “He’s got those little flashes of brilliance.”
So far, flashes are all anyone’s seen of Nelson. The 18-year-old has been deployed out of position at wing-back during Arsenal’s EFL Cup and Europa League campaigns.
But ask regular watchers of the Gunners’ Under-23 side and they’ll tell of a dazzlingly skilful, whippet-quick wide man who bamboozles opponents like Wilfried Zaha. He has six goals in six Premier League Two games and fans are clamouring for him to start.
Arsene Wenger, though, seems less keen. And, while Cup games are all well and good, surely a toughening-up stint on loan in the Championship would serve Nelson better. If you don’t ask, you don’t get…
Watford contemplated selling Watson in the summer, with Simon Grayson and Sunderland at the front of the queue.
But the Black Cats were unwilling to cough up cash for a 32-year-old whose contract expires in June. Nor were fellow suitors Cardiff and Nottingham Forest.
Watford boss Marco Silva certainly won’t miss him as the midfield workhorse hasn’t started a single Premier League game in two years. And, with the clock ticking, the Hornets will be lucky to see six figures in January.
For an FA Cup winner with 155 top-flight games and two Championship promotions under his belt, that is a snip.
From one ginger midfield grafter to another. If your team likes defending free-kicks and picking up yellow cards, Colback could be right up your street.
In fairness, the 28-year-old Geordie arrived at Newcastle in controversial circumstances, after ditching bitter rivals Sunderland, and probably tried a little too hard to prove his commitment.
Rafa Benitez swiftly tired of Colback’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach and pointed him in the direction of the stand.
Having played not a single second of the season so far, that solitary England call-up in 2014 must seem like a long time ago. Still, the suspicion remains that a player of Colback’s ilk, backed by a trusting manager, is tailor-made for the Championship.
Edwards was just 17 and ripping through Spurs youth ranks when Mauricio Pochettino uttered the words that would settle like a millstone on the playmaker’s shoulders.
“The qualities – his looks, his body and the way that he plays – I remember a little bit from the beginning of Messi,” said the Argentine.
A year on, one of British football’s most vaunted prospects has not lived up to his billing. “He needs to learn to be disciplined and make sacrifices,” said Pochettino.
“He has authority and behavioural problems. There was a time when it would have been seen as impossible for him to make it as a professional.”
So far, so Ravel Morrison. Yet Spurs have not given up yet. And, if a Championship manager can be persuaded to babysit this mesmeric yet troubled dribbler, the Premier League side would be delighted.
Ladapo completed a fairytale journey from Margate to Manchester United when he made his Premier League bow at Old Trafford in September.
That, however, is where the sentiment stops. Roy Hodgson’s justification for the 24-year-old’s selection –‘he’s a striker and we need a striker’ – was hardly glowing and the former England boss has since made it clear that Ladapo has no place at Selhurst Park.
With no reputation to fall back on (he was a Non-League player before scoring a hat-trick on trial at Palace in March 2016), Ladapo’s options are limited.
Still, the big striker impressed on loan at Shrewsbury last season and, at a powerful 6ft 2in, he would be an affordable target man for a struggling Championship side.
Jurgen Klopp has publicly declared his intention to loan out Liverpool’s Under-23 stars in January. Expect a stampede for the services of midfielder Ovie Ejaria and striker Ben Woodburn.
Yet, it’s forgotten man Harry Wilson who could prove most tempting. Despite an impressive tally of ten goals and 11 assists in 15 reserve games this year, the Welsh winger – already capped by his country – no longer trains with the first team and this month announced he would not sign a new deal at Anfield.
Preston and Alex Neil were already interested in a loan for the 20-year-old. Now they may fancy something more permanent and, with Wilson eager to remain in the North West, the Lilywhites are in pole position. Even so, they are likely to face competition.
Chased by a trio of Championship clubs in the summer, Lolley elected to stay put and has suffered as a consequence.
A three-minute cameo in the 2-0 win over Brighton this month was his first action in three months and even that looked like a token gesture to give the 25-year-old his Premier League debut.
With Philip Billing, Tom Ince and Aaron Mooy all preferred in the No.10 role, Lolley is destined for the exit. But the playmaker had a terrific pre-season and, after an injury-hit 2016-17, must be desperate to prove a point.
Of the clubs interested in August, Sheffield United remain keen, while Barnsley and Sunderland are desperate for reinforcements.
When Burnley parted with £5m to sign Wells from Huddersfield on deadline day, nobody was more surprised – or happier – than the Terriers.
Not only was the Bermudan striker in the final year of his contract, David Wagner was planning to offload him anyway. The reason for that has clearly made itself apparent to Sean Dyche, who hasn’t given Wells a minute’s action this season.
But, while the 27-year-old falls short of Premier League standards, his Championship record of 41 goals over the last three seasons is not to be sniffed at. Aston Villa, always keen to add to their army of strikers, are interested in a loan, along with several others.
“I’m a young, hungry player, who wants to attack and get past my man,” says Mahoney. “I like to get fans off their seat.” Who wouldn’t want that?
Controversially pinched from Blackburn on a free transfer last summer, Mahoney is an England youth international who made his debut for Accrington Stanley at the age of 16.
A further 30 appearances for Rovers followed and the winger, now 20, has so far turned in several sparkling displays for the Cherries’ development side.
That, though, is no place for a lad with so much first-team experience. If stagnation is to be avoided, a loan move to a club in the Championship or top end of League One is essential.
Last seen playing for Brighton’s Under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy, Rosenior rarely makes the squad these days, let alone the starting XI.
Eighteen months of injury hell – ruptured knee ligaments, followed by a fractured ankle – were hardly ideal preparation for the Premier League and it’s fair to say that, at 33, the full-back’s top-flight days are all but over.
Signing Rosenior, though, is about more than what happens on the pitch. Already a pundit, the former Hull man is an articulate and charismatic leader who has twice won promotion to the Premier League. In other words, just the sort of cool veteran a top-six Championship side could use when the pressure cooker heats up.