1. ITV Report

How are our clubs coping without the emergency loan window?

The January transfer window is almost here and football fans up and down the country are starting to get excited about who their clubs will be hoping to sign.

This year’s window is arguably more important than ever though, because for the first time in more than a decade, clubs won’t able to bring in players on loan once it’s closed.

Football League clubs used to have the option of adding players on short-term loans outside the two designated transfer windows, but FIFA have decided to put an end to that.

We’ve been looking at how our clubs and players have been coping with the changes.

  • What was the emergency loan window and why was it scrapped?
The loan window was introduced in 2002/03. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The Emergency loan window was introduced for English clubs in the 2002/03 season.

Under the rules, teams in the Football League could loan players outside the summer and January transfer windows for a minimum of 28 days and a maximum of 93.

FIFA ordered it to be scrapped this year though because they argued it damaged the "integrity" of the competition.

In other words, they wanted to prevent a scenario where a club drafted in a Premier League star to help them gain promotion or avoid relegation – just as Norwich City did in 2003 when they signed Peter Crouch and Darren Huckerby.

  • How is it affecting managers?
John McGreal is in his first season as a manager. Credit: PA

Just like their Premier League counterparts, Football League clubs now only have two opportunities a year to trade.

Teams used to use the emergency market most when they had a bit of an injury crisis or couldn’t afford to pay new arrivals big money.

Colchester United suffered a dramatic downturn in form earlier this season after they picked up several injuries to key players, but manager John McGreal was unable to bring in fresh blood like he would have been able to a year ago.

I just think through that winless run we were young as such. We didn't have that experience.

Would it have been nice to go to the Premier League clubs? Obviously it would, because they've all got talent and they're all category one clubs - it would have been great.

But that opportunity isn't there no more, so we live by the window to window.

– John McGreal, Colchester United manager

Despite the restrictions, one of the positives is that clubs with smaller budgets are having to show more faith in their own young players to fill gaps in their squads.

Colchester are a prime example, with their recent squad at Mansfield containing five academy graduates.

  • How is it affecting players?
Tommy Smith has established himself at Ipswich. Credit: PA

While young lower league players are getting more first team minutes, the same can’t be said of those higher up the pyramid.

It’s a particular problem for Premier League and Championship prospects, with many managers unprepared to throw in too many youngsters at once.

It's meant that lots of players are having to settle for the occasional under 21s game instead of being given the chance to prove themselves on loan in Leagues One and Two.

Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith benefited from short spells away from Portman Road earlier in his career, and is now a first team regular.

Being a young player, having not played in a first-team environment before, I'd obviously played a lot of reserve-team football but it's completely different when you go to a team that need the points and every week is a battle.

Reserve-team football can be a bit tippy-tappy, nice football but without anything at the end of it meaningful wise.

– Tommy Smith, Ipswich Town
  • What will it mean for January?
Some of Norwich City's young stars may look to head out on loan in January. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It’s important to remember that clubs can do what they want in January, with both loan and permanent deals on the cards.

However, once it shuts on January 31 – clubs will have to go with what they’ve got for the rest of the campaign.

That could mean a lot of players will have to knuckle down and wait another six months for competitive action and teams could spend money they haven’t really got in a bid to ensure they’re not left short if injury or illness hits.