8 Premier League players who’ve dazzled on loan in the Championship this season
Sam Johnstone (Aston Villa from Man United)
With David de Gea and Sergio Romero well ahead of him in the pecking order at Manchester United, Johnstone is being primed for the next phase of his career away from Old Trafford. At 25, the former England Under-20 goalkeeper has become accustomed to heading out on loan in search of first-team football – this is the 10th time he’s done so, and this latest spell has allowed him to showcase greater maturity.
Brought in by Steve Bruce midway through last season, Johnstone rejoined Aston Villa over the summer. He’s been ever-present in the league, keeping 17 clean sheets in the club’s promotion push. Supporters who doubted Johnstone’s ability after a couple of shaky performances when he first arrived have been won over.
As United triggered a one-year extension in his contract, a fee will be required for Villa to sign him permanently.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham from Newcastle)
Since signing for Newcastle in the summer of 2015, the Serbian striker has largely been a cause of frustration and disappointment. Mitrovic retains some ardent supporters, but most Magpies have been left cursing his poor discipline and inability to assert his talent. The bullish attributes of a classic No.9 were always there, but never applied consistently or effectively enough at Premier League level.
In January 2018, though, Mitrovic joined Fulham on a six-month loan deal to spearhead the Cottagers' promotion charge – and has been a revelation. The west Londoners were a creative and free-flowing side that lacked a focal point earlier in the season, but they’ve been on an unstoppable run since.
Unbeaten in 18 games, Fulham are the Championship’s form team and automatic promotion is in their sights. Mitrovic’s eight goals in 11 appearances have played a huge part.
Jamal Blackman (Sheffield United from Chelsea)
Among Chelsea’s army of loanees, Blackman is yet to make a single first-team appearance for his parent club having come through their academy. The athletic and agile goalkeeper undoubtedly sees his future somewhere other than Stamford Bridge, and has been getting plenty of experience on loan in recent years.
He proved himself at League Two's Wycombe last season, making over 50 appearances in all competitions for the Chairboys, and has stepped up to Championship level impressively. Given Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder’s attacking approach, Blackman’s goal has often come under threat – but he’s coped admirably.
There were a few handling errors earlier in the season, and a slight dip in confidence as a result, which led to Blackman being dropped from the side. But he was back to his best until a comical red card against Brentford on Good Friday.
Kieran Dowell (Nottingham Forest from Everton)
It’s been another turbulent season for Nottingham Forest both on and off the pitch, with little sign of the progress that supporters had hoped for under new ownership. Performances have been strangely inconsistent and the East Midlanders once more find themselves in lower mid-table, with limited scope for improvement.
Aside from the emergence of some of their own young players, the contributions of Kieran Dowell have been among the few bright spots. The 20-year-old playmaker was in exceptional form before Christmas, carving open defences and scoring spectacular goals. Although he’s hit a difficult patch recently, it’s still been a productive loan spell overall for the Evertonian, who helped England U20s win last summer’s World Cup.