Loan spells are an essential part of any young player’s development. It provides not only the player himself with much needed first team football early in his career, but it also gives the clubs the opportunity to test their youth players’ abilities a bar or two above what they are used to at reserve or under 18 level. Liverpool have utilised this option for their youth stars this season with Tom Ince and Stephen Darby going out on loan to Notts County, Victor Palsson going to Dagenham & Redbridge, Daniel Ayala on loan to Hull, and now Nathan Eccleston to Charlton today.
The departure on loan of Nathan Eccleston to the Addicks today got me thinking about the quality of the loan deals that the Reds are getting for their young guns. Last season, young striker Eccleston was sent out on loan to League One side Huddersfield Town for the last six months of the season. He scored on his debut against Yeovil Town and everything seemed positive for a fruitful loan spell at the Terriers, but after a Red card against Gillingham, he was invariably used as a substitute and only started four games on his loan at the club. On top of this, Eccleston was more often than not played on the wings rather than his most natural position up front and he gained little by having to come on with 20 minutes to go while playing out of position.
In my opinion, Eccleston gained very little from this loan experience and would have been better served staying at Melwood and continuing to play in the reserves. He showed in his fleeting appearances in the Europa League this season that with his pace and ability, he is a real talent, and hopefully his spell at Charlton will see him have more first team opportunities. It was said that the Reds turned down offers from clubs in higher divisions so it suggests that he will be given more game time. However, I think there must be a fundamental change in how our youngsters go out on loan.