Norwich City's adroit use of the loan market was back under the spotlight south of the border this week as one or two mystified Town punters looked to cry 'Foul!' over the number of other people's players the Canaries had on duty at Home Park.
Five is the magic number as far as the authorities are concerned – that any one team can only name five on-loan players among its starting 16. Of the eleven players on the pitch and the five substitutes on the bench, 11 must be contracted players to that particular club.
Run through the City team at Plymouth on Saturday and eagle-eyed Town fans were coming up with more than five. They counted seven.
Goal-scorers Arturo Lupoli and Antoine Sibierski were, of course, the most high profile as their respective strikes either side of the interval gave the Canaries their first win of the new season.
Then there were the two, Premiership full-backs in Ryan Bertrand and Elliot Omosuzi – that made it four. Imperious centre-half John Kennedy made it five. And then there were the two on the bench – Portsmouth's Omar Koroma and the newly-arrived Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Grounds. Seven.
Surely City were guilty of fielding two more loan players than the rules allow? An eighth – Tottenham's Troy Archibald-Henville – was no doubt also there or thereabouts.
Check the 'facts' with confident club officials and Roeder's employment of the loan rules to Norwich's clear advantage is, actually, spot on.
Because as the rules currently stand, loan players registered abroad do not count in the 'Five only..' reckoning.
Hence Fiorentina's Lupoli doesn't count; nor does Celtic's Kennedy. All of which left Roeder only fielding five loans as recognised by the English FA; the five loans that he was entitled to play under the current Football League rules.
Among the many other tricks he's had up his sleeve over the last ten months, Roeder's use of the loan system has proved exceptional.
Yes, they may be other people's players, but if you find the right, motivated characters among them – boy, do they work a treat.
“We've come an awful long way in a short space of time – turning players over,” said Roeder, ahead of last weekend's long trip down to the South-West.
“And as I said recently, we could not have done that without the loan players. It wasn't four out, four in. It was 17 out. That's not even a team out – that's a squad out.
“I don't know what we've brought in – you lose count in the end. What… 11, 12… And half of those are not our players.”
But, almost to a man, they have played as if they were Norwich City players; they have all appeared to care. Reading winger was probably the one exception to that rule; the England Under-19 international did himself few favours in that awful trip to Leicester City last season – his one and only start before being returned to sender.
Interestingly in his two Carling Cup appearances for the Royals this term, he has scored on both occasions – there clearly was a decent player in them somewhere.
His pal Alex Pearce was fine; Matthew Bates was probably the unluckiest loan signing – rupturing his knee ligaments for the third time in 18 months before his short-term Canary career had ever really clicked into gear.
Others were spectacularly successful – Ched Evans being the obvious one with Martin 'Tiny' Taylor being not too far behind.
Kennedy is already looking like being capable of scaling similar heights as the Blues centre-half, while Bertrand was happy enough to sign up for a second tour of duty this season. With Omosuzi operating in the opposite full-back position, those two have already been acclaimed as the best full-back partnership in the division by the City chief.
Last Friday and the pair were rolled out to prove his point again – that a club of Norwich's ilk could never afford them on a full-time basis. Or at least not while they had a 'poor millionaire' at the helm.
Therefore, you beg, borrow and steal such players as and when you can. And not that they come free either. One respected columnist suggested that Bertrand's loan fee for the season would be near the ?1 million mark.
“I've made the point to other people – the two young full-backs we could not afford,” said Roeder on Friday. “Most Championship teams could not afford Omosuzi and Bertrand – if they were for sale. Which they're not.
“I wouldn't like to be valuing other people's players, but I would have thought that there's the thick end of ?5 million in those two. Maybe more.”
Sibierski's instant impact as he provided that final piece in the jig-saw suggests he, too, won't fall into the Elvis Hammond-stroke-Simon Tracey school of loan signing. The problems will arrive in three months time when both 'Sibi' and Kennedy are due to return to their full-time employers.
That's when the Huckerby-like pressure will mount for such successful loan signings to be made permanent; for now, however, that prospect remains at the mercy of the club's on-going quest to secure fresh investment. Without it and January could be the month for some painful farewells.
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