Michael Tonge
Today has seen the acquisition of 2 more players through the loan market, with former Blade Michael Tonge joining from Stoke until the end of the season, and the imminent signing of Korey Smith from Norwich City, on a deal expected to last for around a month initially. This follows from the injury to Reds’ skipper Jacob Butterfield, and the departure of on loan Danny Drinkwater, who made the move to Leicester last week.

That wasn’t the only activity expected however, as the Reds had also enquired about the availability of Leyton Orient captain Stephen Dawson, with the Irish midfielder’s contract with the O’s set to expire at the season’s end. The Reds have since been pushed backed however, and will now look to conclude any possible deal in the summer window.

Crisis averted?
Following the combined effects that saw Jacob Butterfield and Danny Drinkwater leave the team, the Reds have struggled to field a full strength midfield, with an injury problem to Jim O’Brien only adding to the worries of manager Keith Hill. The Reds started only one recognised midfielder on Saturday, David Perkins, although Miles Addison has played his entire loan spell in the centre of midfield, despite being traditionally recognised as a centre back. With Addison returning to Derby following the expiration of his emergency loan deal, Keith Hill appeared to be out of options - perhaps until today.

Michael Tonge is the first to arrive, with the former Blade having failed to hit the ground at Stoke since his £2 million move from Sheffield United back in 2008. Tonge certainly adds a wealth of experience to the side having made over 250 appearances for United, including back in their Premiership season in 2006/07. However despite the fact that Tonge must have had undoubted quality to merit such a move, questions must remain over his fitness, and any potential wage demands.

This season, Tonge has failed to make either of Stoke’s 25 man Premier League or 23 man Europa League squads, meaning that he has been limited to only reserve and domestic cup action.

Can a player who has been limited to playing time truly hit the ground running?

Furthermore, a Premier League player comes with evidently high wage demands, much higher perhaps than those that Keith Hill has been accustomed to forking out, compared to players that he has brought in this season.

How much are Stoke contributing to his wages? And is it a big gamble for us?

Korey Smith
Secondly comes the imminent arrival of Korey Smith. Smith brings with him slightly less experience, although he does have a full Championship season under his belt, when he helped the Canaries gain promotion last season.

Like Tonge, Smith has enjoyed little playing time this season, and has been limited to only one game. However, the attacking minded midfielder comes highly rated from Norwich, having signed a deal to 2013, and has captained various youth sides whilst rising through the ranks at Norwich, since being plucked out of Non-League Football.

Whilst Smith may arrive with smaller wage demands [compared to Tonge], how will his fitness serve him having been limited to so little game time?

The loan story so far
These loan signings come as the 5th and 6th of the season respectively this season, with the likes of Cameron Park, Nile Ranger, Danny Drinkwater and Miles Addison preceding them.

In the eyes of many Reds fans, Hill has come up with a mixture of good and bad signings, with Drinkwater in particular standing out as a very good loan acquisition. Leicester City recently spoilt that party, when the intended loan spell would have seen the midfielder remain at Oakwell until the season’s end.

To some, Miles Addison had a relatively poor start, but the Derby man was able to regain the faith of many Reds supporters following impressive performances against West Ham and Leeds United, and therefore may have been seen as a fair signing in the end.

For the likes of Cameron Park and Nile Ranger, their loan spells were perhaps disappointing. Both were greeted with much expectation, particularly in the case of Ranger. However, various injuries limited the game time of both men, and for these reasons, supporters were left wanting, seeking a little more from the loan spells.

On the whole, in my view, the loans have been impressive, particularly that of Drinkwater. I feel that it's important to consider a number of issues when making a deal.
  1. what [squad] problem the signing(s) will address?
  2. how much will their wages cost?
  3. how committed will they be to the club?
Whilst at Barnsley FC, Drinkwater was fully committed and really addressed our midfield problems - it was therefore no surprise to hear that he was in demand, especially after such a decent spell with us and in the end - capable of commanding such a high fee. Unfortunately, none of it going to us!

Is Drinkwater a one off? That remains to be seen. However, I believe that the previous signings we have had all showed potential, but were unlucky with injuries.

My Final View
It’s always difficult to gauge a loan signing, since it can be massively different to a permanent deal in so many ways. For me, Keith Hill has come up trumps in bringing a relatively large name [in Tonge] to Oakwell, and also has brought in 2 players with Championship experience. This, I believe will add to the current squad dynamic, who have done fantastically well to ‘overachieve’ game in game out so far, but have at times lacked that experience.

Smith is young and creative, and has made the step up from League 1 to the Championship himself, something he can surely pass on to the rest of our squad. Tonge has been there and done it all. He's known promotion [to the Premiership], relegation and the mental challenges that those situations create.

Tonge could be 'skipper" material - if he enjoys a good start to his spell. It just remains to be seen whether both players truly have the fitness to hit the ground running.

We would love to hear your comments on this post below, or respond to this and other transfer / loan activity via On The Ponty End's brand new Forum.

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Anonymous said...

Korey is a fabulous player. Got injured early in the season for NCFC so hasn't featured at all for sometime. Guess he is joining you to get gametime. He is unlucky in that our rise has been so quick that he is unlikely to feature in the Prem regularly but St Paul does rate him and so do I. Will be an asset for however long he is at Oakwell.

WILKY said...

Hopefully we can get him in quickly, get some decent games out of Korey Smith and who knows, under the circumstances you've described get him until the end of the season! Let's see ...