NEIL Harris has explained the difficulty of securing Premier League players on loan – but hasn’t ruled out that possibility this summer.
Loan players from the top flight had a big influence in the Championship last season. Play-off finalists Aston Villa and Derby County lined up with six players between them borrowed from the Premier League.
Villa had a centre-back pairing of Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United) and Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth), and Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) up front. The beaten side had Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount (Chelsea) and Harry Wilson (Liverpool).
Harris revealed in 2017 that Millwall had been offered a top-flight young player but refused the deal as the club in question wanted a guarantee over playing time.
There are often also hefty fees involved and vast wages. Abraham, for instance, earns £50,000 a week at Chelsea, of which Villa were contributing a considerable chunk. Even if Millwall could afford to operate on that scale, Harris would be wary of acquiring a player on loan on a salary way above the squad average and the unsettling effect that could have.
Millwall have had success in the past taking young players from the Premier League, notably when they had an unofficial link-up with Tottenham and Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason went south of the river to The Den.
Harris has previously signed players on loan from a higher division: Jed Wallace and George Saville (Wolves) and Jake Cooper (Reading) dropped down from the Championship to League One in 2015-16 and subsequently went on to sign permanently.
Shane Ferguson also arrived that season from Premier League Newcastle before signing a permanent deal.
Harris prefers loans with a view to permanent deals, but admits the current inflated market opens the door for a foray into the pool of Premier League youngsters whose clubs will be seeking to send them out for senior first-team experience this summer.
“I’ve been honest in the past to say I didn’t really want loan players because I think it’s sometimes best having your own players and developing them with us,” Harris told the News.
“You want the players that have the real hunger and desire to play for our club. It’s changing, it’s such a tough [permanent] market to shop in to get value for money. We got close to a couple of loan players last summer that went on to do well.
“What comes with that is the demands of the big clubs, and I don’t blame them for that because they want to look after their players, their assets.
“What is evident is that some clubs want to loan out their players and have it all their own way. There can be big loan fees and big penalties if they don’t play. Financially it’s risky. With financial fair play (FFP) you don’t want to fall short by getting fined by clubs for not playing their players.
“I’m all for taking players and giving them the opportunity to strengthen us, but it has to be on our terms as well.
“There’s a balance between taking a risk on a younger player when you don’t know what they’re going to do but they do have potential.
“What you find is that those players don’t become available for loan until right at the end of the window, the end of July, the start of August. The big clubs need to take them on pre-season tours to fill teams.
“We are turning over a lot of players this summer. Nine have gone already and there will be more going. We do need to bring players in and we won’t be able to get them all before the start of pre-season or before we go away [to Portugal] in July.
“Naturally there might be an opportunity for us to delve into that market at the end of the July because we’ll still be trying to bring players in. If they become available [for loan] that could suit us.
“If the players we want become available before that, then we will act.”
Image: Millwall FC