Grant Smith – Is a loan the right move?

Courtesy Graham Burrell

There’s been much talk about Grant Smith heading out on loan in the next couple of weeks, unless of course I’ve already missed it happening.

Danny is keen to get him out as we currently have three quality keepers, our number one Josh Vickers, the vastly experienced Sam Slocombe and Smith. Slocombe arrived on loan from Bristol Rovers when it appeared Vickers might be a long-term injury victim, but played second fiddle to Smith.

Smith is a keeper who has progressed through the non-league ranks and looked incredibly impressive last season for Boreham Wood. He settled nicely in the sticks for City, making six appearances and keeping two clean sheets. At 24 he’s two years older than Vickers but was seen as a natural successor if (and when) bigger clubs catch on to Vickers’ talents.

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

When Josh fought back to fitness it was widely felt that Slocombe would return to Bristol Rovers. Aside from the Scunthorpe game he’d looked okay against Blackburn despite conceding four and maybe passable against Mansfield. For an experienced keeper his command of the area was average and the goal conceded against Mansfield in the first half beat him easily at the near post.

However, Danny has since revealed he wants Smith out on loan, leaving Slocombe as the back up to Josh Vickers. Is this the right move? 

The thinking is actually sound, even though it seems we’re letting a good player go out on loan. If it isn’t seen as a precursor to a move away, which it shouldn’t be, then surely it makes more sense. Our asset, the one we own and want to develop, goes out and gets regular football. The player we’ve borrowed, the older keeper who wants to be closer to home, serves as understudy.

There’s nothing preventing us having a clause inserted in Smith’s deal allowing a recall if Vickers gets injured again, in fact it would almost certainly be the case. If that happened, Smith would come back match sharp having been playing regularly. When viewed from that angle, it is a win / win situation.

The role of keeper isn’t like anywhere else. Smith doesn’t have to strike up patterns of play or in grain a certain tactic in his head. Sure, there will be instructions, but much of a keeper’s training is done away from the first team, working on their own aspects. He wouldn’t necessarily benefit from being with the squad five days a week and sitting on the bench any more than being out on loan playing regularly.

The key is to get him a move to a local club side, or as local as possible. Something that perhaps allows him to train with us if his intended destination are a part-time side. If not, somewhere his progress can be monitored easily and he can come back in every so often. Maybe somewhere such as Chesterfield or Guiseley would be a good move for him?

There’s always the possibility of a loan out to his old club too, Boreham Wood. He was clearly settled and enjoying his football there and that might be a viable option.

What of Sam Slocombe. It seems harsh on the lad to simply be a part of the squad with little chance of regular football, but such is life. He won’t displace Josh Vickers, Grant won’t either, so whoever remains back at base will be warming the bench and applying pressure for a first team place without getting a proper sniff.

In that instance, I’d rather it was someone else’s player missing out that a 24-year old who could well be the number one in a season or two.