The busy Christmas period has brought about the opportunity for two games in three days for many of Chelsea’s young loanees, whilst others have been afforded the luxury of a rest. In the last loan round-up of 2009, we’ll also take a look at the futures of those players who are on half-season deals which are due to expire in the next seven days,
We’ll start in the Premier League, where there was a potential Boxing Day clash between Scott Sinclair and Franco Di Santo at the DW Stadium with Wigan hosting Blackburn. Unfortunately, those plans were scupped when Sinclair was once more restricted to a place on the bench throughout, but Di Santo did at least start and completed 72 minutes in a 1-1 draw. He had a useful outing and was denied a goal by a last-gasp Titus Bramble interception, but was on the bench for Monday’s hosting of Sunderland. This time he entered the fray after 72 minutes of a 2-2 draw and along with fellow replacement Nikola Kalinic caused no end of problems for the Black Cats defenders, but they couldn’t grab a winner. Carlo Ancelotti has shown an open willingness to Di Santo remaining at Ewood Park for the rest of the season, so perhaps expect to see that deal finalised in the near future. Sinclair, meanwhile, is at Wigan for the entire season, and must look to improve in the new year.
For Michael Mancienne, there is perhaps a new lease of life, or at the very least a change on the horizon. In Boxing Day’s defeat at Anfield, he came into the game as a 62nd minute substitute in defensive midfield, and then started Monday’s 0-3 reverse at home to Manchester City in the same position, allowing captain Karl Henry a more advanced role in their 4-4-2 formation. Whilst he does have midfield experience as a holding player in a three, it’s the first time he’s been paired as part of a duo. He was unfortunate to see his foul on Gareth Barry converted in the form of Javier Garrido’s excellent free kick but was otherwise the home side’s man of the match and Mick McCarthy’s post-match comments suggest that it’s a potentially permanent positional change, whilst indicating that he hopes to keep Michael until the end of the season.
“I thought Mancienne was outstanding. He got man of the match and thought he really gave us a platform from which to play, along with Karl Henry.
In the Championship, Coventry recorded a third straight win on Saturday with a close-fought 1-0 win over Doncaster with Jack Cork and Patrick van Aanholt heavily involved. Patrick’s first half cross on his weaker right foot provided Freddy Eastwood with a headed opportunity which hit the post, and Cork’s second half long ball resulted in the Sky Blues winning the penalty they were to seal the win by, with Clinton Morrison converting their second of the afternoon (Leon Best having missed in the first half). Their winning run ended Monday at the hands of in-form Nottingham Forest, with Cork withdrawn after 70 minutes, but a recent upturn in form has given them something of a cushion from the relegation zone. With both deals set to expire next week, early reports suggest Cork will remain at the Ricoh Arena until the end of the season, whilst van Aanholt has been recalled, presumably with alternative plans for him in 2010.
“It’s good news about Jack,” said Coleman, “but unfortunately they want Patrick back. We’ve got to say a big thank you to Chelsea and Patrick for what he’s done for us. We’ve enjoyed working with him – he’s been a good professional who has worked very hard and I think he’s improved as a player since he’s been with us.”
Ryan Bertrand is at Reading for the rest of the season but the Royals’ woes didn’t improve much over the festive period, drawing 1-1 at home to high-flying Swansea before crashing to a humiliating 4-1 reverse at struggling Plymouth. Bertrand played the full match on both occasions and took the opportunity to issue a rallying cry to his team-mates for an upturn in form in the new year. It’s not something he’s done before but in a young team, Ryan has a lot of football league experience (having plyed a trade in all three leagues outside of the top flight) and it shows a growing maturity from the young left-back. Rhys Taylor’s Christmas, however, was a quieter one, sitting on the bench for QPR’s win over Bristol City and defeat at Ipswich, whilst starting goalkeeper Radek Cerny didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in either outing.
It was a similarly quiet period for Carlisle’s Tom Taiwo. Their Boxing Day fixture was postponed due to dangerous conditions and a frozen pitch at Brunton Park, but for their Monday afternoon goalless draw at Tranmere, he was an unused substitute. After a bout of tonsilities Tom may not have been at full fitness but his omission was tactical, as Greg Abbott preferred to start the in-form Peter Murphy. Negotiations are ongoing for Taiwo to stay at the club until the end of the season but Abbott was perhaps taking the opportunity to plan for life without the tough-tackling Yorkshireman, who has reportedly been attracting interest from Championship teams.
Jacob Mellis, however, wasn’t even involved in either of Southampton’s matches over the bank holiday weekend, and after their defeat at Colchester manager Alan Pardew revealed that he has returned to Chelsea a week ahead of the planned date. The same can likely be expected for Liam Bridcutt, who missed consecutive defeats to MK Dons and Leeds – the Hatters’ tenth and eleventh consecutive reverses – with a troublesome knee injury for which he has been treated at Cobham. Due to return in January anyway, there is a decision to be made for his future.
Nana Ofori-Twumasi extended his loan at Dagenham & Redbridge to allow him to play up until the new year and John Still kept faith in his temporary right back with two starts over Christmas. They both ended in defeats to Northampton and Cheltenham respectively, and whilst he was booked in the former fixture and defensively shaky in the second, it was his cross which earned a penalty at the Sixfields Stadium. Mark Arber missed, but manager John Still may yet extend the young defender’s deal further.
Miroslav Stoch and Slobodan Rajkovic are on a winter break with FC Twente after their Dutch Cup clash with Helmond Sport. Stoch played the full match whilst Rajkovic was a late sub in the 3-0 win. Matej Delac is in England training with Chelsea until the new year as Croatia are also on hiatus.