12 surprising loan spells you've almost certainly forgotten about
From bizarre temporary purchases by big clubs to established international players getting experience in the lower leagues: these are the short-term signings we've all dismissed from memory
Kyle Walker to Northampton
Walker, who grew up around a mile from Bramall Lane, joined boyhood club Sheffield United at the age of seven and made his maiden first-team appearance as an 18-year-old in January 2009. Before that, though, the right-back spent two months on loan at Northampton, who handed him his professional debut and eight further outings in League One.
More than that, though, it was a huge growing-up experience for Walker, who admitted earlier this year: “I can remember driving down with my mum and dad. They were in the front car and I had to follow them down because I’d never driven on a motorway before.
“Some of those [Northampton] players depend[ed] on winning games – that can pay their mortgage. So it was a fantastic opportunity for me and a really massive learning curve to go down there.”
Jonjo Shelvey to Blackpool
A series of impressive performances for Charlton in the Championship and League One convinced Liverpool to spend £1.7m on Shelvey in May 2010. The midfielder played 21 times for the Reds in his first season at the club, before embarking on a loan stint at Blackpool in the autumn of 2011.
The 19-year-old performed brilliantly at Bloomfield Road, scoring six goals in 10 league games for Ian Holloway’s charges – including a hat-trick in a 5-0 vanquishing of Leeds. The deal was cut short after two months, however, with the Reds recalling Shelvey due to an injury crisis at Anfield.
Aaron Ramsey to Nottingham Forest
Arsenal midfielder Ramsey briefly returned to boyhood club Cardiff in January 2011, 11 months after he suffered a horrific leg break against Stoke in the Premier League. Before that more memorable move, however, the Welshman spent six weeks in the East Midlands, joining Nottingham Forest on a short-term loan as he sought to build up his match fitness.
That was the intention, at least. As it turned out, Ramsey made just two Championship starts under Billy Davies – although one of them was Forest’s 5-2 triumph over local rivals Derby.
Mart Poom to Arsenal
As well as sending youngsters out to cut their teeth in the lower leagues, top Premier League clubs have made several forgettable loan signings of their own.
Chief among them is Arsenal's capture of Mart Poom in 2005. Seeking cover for Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia, Arsene Wenger borrowed the Sunderland goalkeeper for three months, before converting the temporary arrangement into a permanent transfer in January – despite the fact that Poom had yet to make his debut for the Gunners. The Estonian did appear twice in 2006/07, though, before departing for Watford at the end of the season.
Ross Barkley to Leeds
Barkley’s Everton debut was delayed when he broke his leg while on international duty with England’s under-19s in October 2010. His first-team bow eventually arrived at the start of 2011/12, but the now-Chelsea midfielder was soon sent out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday, for whom he scored four goals in 13 Championship appearances.
Barkley also spent time at Leeds during that campaign, although his one-month stint at Elland Road was altogether more forgettable: he failed to find the net and played the full 90 minutes just twice under Neil Warnock.
Danny Welbeck to Preston
Many will recall Welbeck’s temporary switch to Sunderland in 2010/11, but that wasn’t the first time that the forward spent time away from Old Trafford while contracted to Manchester United. At the start of 2010, the 19-year-old became Darren Ferguson’s first signing as Preston boss, joining North End until the end of the season.
A knee injury limited Welbeck to just eight appearances for the Championship side, in which time he scored twice as Preston successfully avoided the drop.
Kazuyuki Toda to Tottenham
One of the most bizarre signings Tottenham have ever made, Toda moved to White Hart Lane on loan from Shimizu S-Pulse in 2003. The Japan international had played all four of the co-hosts’ games at the previous year’s World Cup, and Spurs fought off competition from Sunderland to land the 25-year-old on a 12-month loan deal.
Manager Glenn Hoddle called his new recruit an “immensely impressive midfielder” upon his arrival at White Hart Lane, but only played him four times in the Premier League before the utility man joined Den Haag in 2004.
James Milner to Swindon
Milner became the second-youngest player in Premier League history when he made his Leeds debut against West Ham aged 16 years and 309 days in November 2002. Forty-seven days later, he became the division’s youngest ever scorer when he netted against Sunderland, although that record was later broken by Everton’s James Vaughan.
Despite his early exploits in the Leeds first team, Milner was sent on loan to Swindon at the start of the 2003/04. He only spent a month at the County Ground, playing six times and scoring against Luton and Peterborough in League One.
Jordan Henderson to Coventry
A Sunderland supporter who joined his hometown club’s academy as an eight-year-old, Henderson went on to represent the first team 79 times before his move to Liverpool in 2011. His first appearance for the Black Cats came in a 5-0 loss to Chelsea three years prior, after which he was loaned to Coventry to gain first-team experience.
Henderson initially moved to the Ricoh Arena on a one-month deal in January 2009, but the arrangement was extended on the back of some promising performances. The midfielder played 10 matches for the Sky Blues in total, returning to Sunderland in April after breaking a metatarsal.
Adam Lallana to Bournemouth
Lallana is well known for his association with Southampton, the club for whom he played 265 games in three different divisions between 2006 and 2014. Saints weren’t the only side on the south coast he represented before a 2014 move to Liverpool, though: the England international also enjoyed a brief stay at Bournemouth in 2007/08.
Southampton poached a 12-year-old Lallana from the Cherries’ academy in 2000, but he returned to Dean Court seven years later to make three league appearances while on loan to the third-tier team.
Wojciech Szczesny to Brentford
Szczesny is now Juventus's No.1 following the departure of Gianluigi Buffon to PSG, so suffice to say he's come a long way since a 28-game spell with League One side Brentford. The Pole made his professional debut for Arsenal two months before moving across the capital to Griffin Park in November 2009, with the two London clubs initially agreeing a one-month loan deal.
Szczesny impressed Bees boss Andy Scott, and the temporary transfer was extended until the end of the campaign. In 2015, Juve’s current custodian was voted Brentford’s goalkeeper of the decade by supporters.
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Andy Kellett to Manchester United
There will be many Manchester United fans who've never heard of Kellett – and with good reason. The Bolton academy product had recently made 12 appearances on loan at League Two side Plymouth when the Red Devils made their interest known in January 2015, with Wanderers boss Neil Lennon admitting that he thought someone was “winding him up” when the 20-time English champions made a bid to borrow Kellett for the remainder of the season.
The youngster played 10 games for United’s under-23s but, perhaps unsurprisingly, never came close to breaking into the first team. He's now playing under Kevin Nolan at Notts County.
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Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).