One aspect of modern-day football is loaning out young players to non-league clubs for experience, something City don’t do at present. We’ve got Callum Howe out on loan, but we’ve never invested in the future by brining a player in and sending them straight out as Norwich did with Sean Raggett.
However, as budgets grow and players are monitored far closer than ever before, is the time right for City to scour the non-league scene and find a player who they could purchase and loan back out, with a view to having a new face in the summer? The pool of talent in that non-league ranks is excellent and many teams are looking down for players rather than up. Forest Green brought in two non-league players this week and whilst some may say that is preparation for next season, it could be construed as investing in the future.
As you know, I like nothing more than rummaging through the internet looking for the next big thing. Gary Burr also likes it too and together we’ve come up with a list of five players that might just be ripe for buying and loaning back. Whilst many will believe you invest in your squad and nothing more, I think there’s real value in exploring the possibilities opened up by the whole loan market. After all, we can always have a recall clause in case we ever need these players at short notice.
Here’s our list of five players City might do well to buy and loan back out.
Nick Haughton (Chorley)
I’m starting with a dubious one, mainly because he’s actually a Fleetwood player on loan at National League North side Chorley. He is out of contract at the end of the season though and indications are that Fleetwood will not be retaining his services. He’s made 40 appearances for the League One side but hasn’t made a significant enough impression to kick on and build on that.
After being released from Bolton Wanderers, Haughton (pictured top) joined Curzon Ashton FC and earned a call up for England Schools. He joined Fleetwood Town in February 2014 following a trial, and was immediately loaned out to Nantwich Town of the Northern Premier League. Since then he’s also been on loan at Salford. Haughton is running the show at Chorley at the moment, his virtuoso display knocked Boston United out of the FA Cup this season and had the BBC Radio Lincolnshire commentator running out of superlatives to describe him. His Football League time is coming soon, even if Fleetwood choose not to retain him.
Philip Roberts (Braintree Town)
By virtue of where he plays I’m sure we’re both aware of Roberts and would struggle to get him. I’m sure his current club wouldn’t be willing to sell to the side that took their managers and best players eighteen months ago, but you never know. Besides, Philip Roberts is proving to be quite a player down south and, like Haughton, he’s primed to join a Football league club soon. He’s a 23-year-old striker who has fired 16 goals already this season. Like Josh Vickers, he’s a former Arsenal youngster who joined them after playing for Norwich as a schoolboy.
He’s played under 19 football for the Republic of Ireland too as well as boasting Falkirk, Dundee, Alloa, Sligo Rovers and Chelmsford as his former clubs. In 2013/14 he fired a hat trick as Falkirk beat Livingston, overshadowing current Coventry striker Marc McNulty who played in the same game. Roberts, like Haugton, might actually be one to look at and keep at the club, although given Danny’s desire for players to be playing regularly a purchase and immediate loan to the National League, albeit for six months, could work better.
Joe Leesley (Harrogate Town)
We know how much Danny likes a winger, never before has a Lincoln City squad had so many wide players amongst it’s number. Those players are integral to our approach to the game and Danny may be wanting to cast an eye over the next intake of flair players before he needs them. He might not have to look too far as just up the A1, Joe Leesley is making a name for himself.
The former Alfreton Town player is only 23 and has previously been called up for the England C squad. He is two-footed, not in the cynical way but in the ambidextrous way, and possesses a wicked set piece delivery. His first season at Harrogate saw him get that helped him round 23 assists and nine goals. This season he’s on course to do even better, he already has 13 goals and 15 assists to his name. Boston United found out how devastating he can be first hand in November as he inspired his side to a 2-0 win against the Pilgrims.
Harrogate are pretty well-funded and may not require the money from a transfer, but if the player is ambitious maybe a move and loan back would appeal, especially if it gave him a chance to prove his worth in the National League before moving up to League One (with us) at the end of the season.
Ciaron Brown (Wealdstone)
Given that we’ve lost Sean Raggett and could potentially lose Rob Dickie too, it might be prudent to have one eye on the available centre backs. If Callum Howe does return we could do with one out in the National League playing regularly, and perhaps Wealdstone’s six-foot centre half Brown could fill that requirement.
He arrived at the home of the Raider from Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League side Bedfont Sports at the beginning of last season. His 2016/17 was almost as impressive as ours, his performances first at left back and latterly centre half caught the eye of a number of scouts. In the summer he had a trial with Sheffield Wednesday, but they decided a move to the Championship was perhaps a step too far and also chose not to invest and loan him out.
Since then he’s returned to Wealdstone and is forming even more of a reputation as a commanding centre half, often getting forward for corners and yet composed on the ball when needed at the back. Sound like anyone we already know of? Danny will be keen to find the ‘next Sean Raggett’ but we might not be as lucky as to have him drive up to the ground for a look around. Scouting is much more than a couple of trips to watch a game these days and the best way to keep a track on a promising player is own him and loan him.
Jason Oswell (Stockport)
Finally, we look at a big centre forward who loves a header, something we don’t have when the Big Man is off the pitch. Jason Oswell rolled off the Crewe Alexandra production line and is currently scoring goals for Stockport County in the National League North.
After a series of loan spells he moved to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in June 2012 and played a handful of games in the Scottish top-flight. After eighteen months in Scotland he re-signed for former club Nantwich Town before a trip down under to play for Australian club APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
— Stockport County FC (@StockportCounty) December 10, 2017
Eventually he settled in Wales and, after brief spells at Rhyl and Airbus UK Broughton, he joined Newtown in 2014. Here he finally began to match his obvious promise, he finished as the club’s top scorer in the 2014–15 and 2016–17 seasons, winning the Welsh Premier League golden boot during the latter with a total of 22 league goals. He signed for Stockport County in June 2017 and has ben enjoying another good season.
He’s big, loves a header and at 25 still has enough years in him to make a difference. Maybe, just maybe, he could be worth a few quid off the budget and a loan out to somewhere like Boreham Wood where we could monitor his progress closely before bringing him into the fold at the end of the season.
Rock band the Cranberries once released a (superb) album called ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’ When it comes bringing players in to loan out, it’s a philosophy I feel is relevant and ripe for Lincoln City to be involved in, if the budget allows.