Inspired by that recent article rating all 100 of Leeds’ loan players since 2004, please find below my own half-arsed version: the ten best Sky Blues temps since the turn of the century.
In a particularly bleak history of loan arrangements it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’ve also been treated to some delightful quality in that time. Sure, a disproportionate number of Paul Trollopes and Andre Wrights will have left many with a fundamental distrust of the system, but amidst the undeniable dross we’ve also employed and enjoyed the temporary services of some special players (and some who were just so darned dependable it’s hard to deny them a place in the list).
I’m absolutely certain you’ll disagree with some of these so I invite you to slag me off in the comments section.
10. Colin Healy
Arriving midway through our first season following relegation, young Col joined from Celtic back when loan players were still a novelty. Whisper it quietly, but I always felt that his ability was somewhat overstated, but a steady improvement in his performances and a goal in front of the cameras thrust him into the public consciousness and it wasn’t long before he was picking up Ireland caps off the back of it. He makes the list because I guarantee if I didn’t put him on the list, someone would question why he wasn’t on the list.
9. Richard Duffy
Perennial loanee Richard Duffy managed an inordinate 72 loan appearances for the Sky Blues in a bunch of spells between 2005 and 2008. Clearly volume has something to do with his recognition in this list, but there was also a level of reliability about old Duffinho, hence his inability to keep away from the club. Like Healy, he also drew his first senior caps during his time at Cov, actually earning himself a starting role for Wales against an England side that included such luminaries as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Kieran Richardson.
8. Gary Caldwell
Another one from the olden days (that weren’t actually the olden days). I’d say Caldwell was probably my first experience of a season-long loan player coming in and fitting in so well, so much so you often forgot that he wasn’t our player. He managed 36 games back in 2002/03 and showed all the signs of a young player more than capable of carving out a career for himself. Which he did. In Scotland (and Wigan).
7. Bjarni Guðjónsson
Surprised you with this one, didn’t I? Well, if you were actually taking notice of what little BG was getting up to back in 2004 under Eric Black, it shouldn’t. He was an absolute gem of a player, struck down with that most unfortunate disadvantage of not being particularly tall. As the years fade, so do the specifics, but what I do recall is just how much I used to look forward to this man being on the pitch. That’s always a telling sign.
6. Dominic Samuel
Here we go – someone I presume we all remember. It was a rotten time for the club when he joined and yet he came in during January and bustled his way to 6 goals in 13 games with an all-too-handy combination of blistering pace and finishing ability. Unfortunately an ankle injury cut things short for Dom just when he was starting to fly, but the fact that he has become the default comparison for so many of our recent strikers further cements his impressive, albeit fleeting impact.
5. Jordan Henderson
Way before he was Liverpool captain or an internet meme, Jordan Henderson was legging it up and down the right wing under Chris Coleman’s woefully underachieving team. He was young, raw, and often lost all control of that rangy stride of his, but he was obviously good. Did I think he was England and Liverpool captain good? Of course not. He’s not fashionable enough for that. But he certainly made our team far better than it was before he joined, which is surely the raison d’etre of almost every loan player.
4. Jacob Murphy
There are some people out there who gave goal/assist machine winger Jacob Murphy grief and referred to him as “shit” to his face. Those people (idiots, I believe they’re called) will have to help me understand exactly what it is they want from their 18 year old loan wingers. If it’s not a relentless flurry of goals and assists, I really don’t know what the alternatives are.
Yes, he was raw. Yes, he was attack-minded. Yes, he could be a greedy bastard. But I didn’t want him to be anything else. I wanted him to come into our league for a season and believe he was better than anyone else on that pitch, and for a huge chunk of it, he believed just that. He was blistering.
As things started to go awry for the team, he too received some very targeted grief from the stands (mainly due to the fact that he wasn’t a left back), and the spark he had in the opening months failed to return.
There’s a lesson here somewhere but I can’t for the life of me think what it is.
3. Stephen Warnock
The bloke came in from Liverpool, smashed out 44 games, picked up a Player of the Season award and went on to have a successful career, culminating in England recognition and an established Premier League reputation. Sure, that reputation’s starting to wilt nowadays, but those are the season-long loans that both parties dream of: quality players integrating quickly into the team before buggering off back to the higher level to fulfill their potential after a positive experience. Marvellous.
2. Adam Armstrong
“We want a twenty-goal-a-season striker”. That’s what we clamour for every summer isn’t it? I think back to the beginning of that season and how concerned I was with the squad before the opening game against Wigan.
What an utter boob I was back then. A front four of Armstrong, Lameiras, Maddison, and O’Brien would have us salivating today. The little man was unstoppable. His pace, his eye for goal, his directness. He offered so much more than we gave him credit for when the signing was announced. All ignited by four goals in his opening two games giving him a similar boost to the one that Callum Wilson received back in his debut* season. Confidence, man. It’s an incredible thing.
The stats men out there will tell you that he didn’t score enough when we weren’t playing at the Ricoh Arena like that’s important, but he still got twenty goals and gave me more than enough memories to place him as the second best Coventry City loan player I’ve ever seen.
*I know it wasn’t technically Wilson’s debut season.
1. David McGoldrick
While Armstrong came along with few expectations, McGoldrick came at a point when we were really struggling (AKA absolutely fucking dreadful) and desperately needed him to do the business. Amazingly he managed just that – dragging the rest of his teammates out of the gloom with a stream of goals… and gorgeous goals at that.
Needless to say he only lasted a few months before someone bigger and better than us wooed him away from his League One adventure, but forget any resentment you may still have about that – just search for his Coventry City goals on YouTube. They were positively sensual.