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This Thursday marked the end of the current loan window in which clubs could sign players on short-term ‘emergency deals’. The Reds took full advantage of the impending deadline, signing troubled striker Nile Ranger from Newcastle and former Barcelona youngster Gai Assulin from Manchester City, which was called off the day after it's announcement. However what must have come as a shock for the Oakwell faithful was not the ins, but the outs, with Nathan Doyle, who was in the running for player of the season last term, signing for Preston until Mid-January.

We take a look at the current loan activity, and in some parts lack of, at Oakwell.

The Ins

To say the Reds have struggled with injury problems this term would be an understatement, with the majority of the first team squad, including the goalkeeper, having picked up at least one injury this term.

Not only have individual injuries been a problem, but there have been times where nearly 10 players have been unavailable for selection, particularly during September and October. So far this season, the Reds have used a total of 4 loan signings, not including the cancelled loan spell of the aforementioned Assulin. This has included Miles Addison, Cameron Park, Danny Drinkwater and as of this week, Nile Ranger.

It’s safe to say that loan signings have been rather hit and miss, with Addison only adding to the injury list for the lion share of his loan spell, and Cameron Park returning to Middlesbrough following a relatively unimpressive spell in which he failed to gain any credible game time. On the other hand, Danny Drinkwater has endeared himself well to the Oakwell faithful, and many have called for the extension of his loan deal which runs out at the turn of the year following a string of impressive performances which many argue have been key to the Reds’ campaign thus far.

This week, Hill had signed both Nile Ranger and Gai Assulin, who had believed to have been on the Reds’ radar since the Israeli U21 international played at Oakwell for his nation against the England U21 team, however due to an injury sustained by the Man City man, the deal was disappointingly called off, with many Reds' fans looking forward to seeing the Israeli following an impressive performance the last time he graced the hallowed turf.

Nile Ranger took up his post as expected, following a troublesome spell with his current club Newcastle which has seen a series of criminal charges be brought against the 20 year old and strained his relationship with both the clubs’ fans and manager Alan Pardew. To many fans the signing was well met, with the Reds having struggled to score goals this season, largely due to injury problems. However now the majority of the squad is fit, some fans have questioned whether this loan signing should have come sooner, since Craig Davies has now found form and is fulfilling a lone striker role, with 4 goals in as many games.

One also has to question Miles Addison’s perceived value within the squad also, since the midfielder has struggled heavily for game time at Oakwell and is reportedly receiving a healthy chunk of his salary from us rather than his parent club.

The Outs

The questions can only continue when you take a look at the other end of the spectrum in who we have sent out on loan. Despite having received more game time than Miles Addison and being a fans favourite, Nathan Doyle has surprisingly joined League 1 Club Preston on loan, who also signed Jamie McCombe from West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town at the end of the current market. It is reported that Doyle and manager Keith Hill have not exactly seen eye to eye this season, which may have been the reason behind the move, however when taking into account the previous injury crisis and the comparative size of the squad with others in the division, was sending a former player of the year contender out on loan the wisest option?

This hasn’t been the first time this season that Hill has baffled fans with loan market decisions this season, with Jay McEveley being listed for loan due to a bad run of form, only for him to require selection the following Saturday due to injuries which saw the alternative left back – Jimmy McNulty, move into the centre of the defence. Whilst you can say that McEveley didn’t leave and therefore the decision is irrelevant, it has to be remembered that McEveley has played every game when available since then, begging the question as to why someone who is now seen as a member of the starting 11 was made available for loan and was subject to a number of enquiries which could have spelled the end for him at the club.

The importance of loans

Of course many people share different views on the loan market, with some saying it is beneficial and others saying it is not. However, what has to be considered the important view at this time is does a loan move signal the beginning of the end of a player’s tenure at a club?

When sending a player out on loan, it can show a player is surplus to requirement and in some cases significantly lower the value in the forthcoming transfer market should the club decide to move the player on permanently. Can a club the size of Barnsley afford to devalue their players in such a way, especially when only 6 months ago many fans, and the former management team couldn’t imagine a Barnsley without Nathan Doyle?

You also have to analyse what remains within the squad, in which arguably some players have certainly gone missing. For example, Goran Lovre and Reuben-Noble Lazarus picked up injuries at the start of the season which were expected to keep them out for between 2 weeks and 2 months, that time has long gone, and yet no sign of the players has been recognized for quite some time, with only the emergence of Hill warning the 18 year old Noble-Lazarus about his conduct on the social network Twitter.

Perhaps the Serbian Lovre is not every Reds’ fan’s immediate priority, although it has to be noted that whilst a popular player in Nathan Doyle has left the club – albeit temporarily, a rather unpopular player who is yet to gain a second of game time (albeit having had a run of reasonable performances in pre-season) remains at the club, and is likely to see out his contract and be released, when in reality only a quarter of his expensive wages have been earned in terms of game time.

Would it have been a better option to send Lovre out on loan, if fit of course, to another club in the hope they would be interested in signing the player permanently in order to free up a massive chunk of the wage budget? Furthermore, if Noble-Lazarus, who was touted to be a pivotal star for the Reds in pre-season prior to his injury, is deemed not mentally ready for the championship, where is the harm in the player gaining professional experience at a League 1 or 2 club, where he could realistically carry the majority of sides?

You also have to look at youngsters such as Jordan Clark, Paul Digby, Danny Rose and John Stones and ask why they haven’t been given crucial professional game time to develop their careers. You might say that there is a lack of interest from lower league clubs, however an unheard of player from the Bury academy has just joined Grimsby on loan. Obviously Grimsby certainly aren’t the biggest club in the world, however they’re a semi-professional club playing within a proper league structure, with the Blue Square Premier realistically only being ‘non-league’ in name and not by nature.

Our youngsters could gain valuable experience from these clubs, yet between them have less than one game’s worth of minutes played (barring Noble-Lazarus). You can understand the view that we have to protect our youngsters however there’s got to be a balance. The current group are either currently 18 or will be 18 within the next year, which is usually the age at which players begin to earn professional game time. Without loan spells, can we realistically expect our youngsters to step into our team within 1 or 2 year’s time and have the experience which would be vital for our survival in the division?

The conclusion

You have to understand that I’m not criticising Keith Hill here, merely speculating as to whether things could be further improved under his stewardship, which as you will know I have been largely impressed with. He knows the challenges at Barnsley and has largely met them and even rose above them, however a club of our size cannot afford to carry what some might consider as deadwood in Goran Lovre, yet get rid of (if only temporarily) a former fans’ favourite in Nathan Doyle. I’m a big fan of transparency and don’t actually mind that Doyle has been loaned out if it were for the right reasons. However I believe it’s crucial to the fans to know where we are with the squad, and who actually is still in existence, and of the few minor hiccups in Hill’s spell at Barnsley, this deal may be considered as one of them.

Obviously it's difficult for managers to be completely open, and one has to thank Hill's transparency thus far, especially within his short term plans. However going forward, I believe Keith Hill could further his current popularity with the fans in discussing his plans for the rest of the season during the January transfer window and how certain players fit into that and what any recruitment, or possibly exit policy might be for potential and/or current players.

Don't forget to leave any feedback or comments below, and if you haven't already, follow me on Twitter @MichaelRoach55

Thanks for reading!

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