Falling in love might be a bit strong, but it’s fair to say Preston North End fans became very attached to their three Premier League loanees last season, Cameron Archer, Daniel Iversen and Sepp van den Berg.
And who can blame them? Iversen won player of the year from fans and his team-mates alike, Van den Berg was voted young player of the year and Archer put the ball in the Blackpool net as well as in the net of six other teams.
So it’s easy to see how they tug on the heart strings and their names will frequently be mentioned this summer as Ryan Lowe looks to reinforce the PNE squad during the transfer window.
With Archer it will be a case of whether he comes back and when that might be, while the talk around Iversen and Van den Berg is how they might be replaced.
Archer has remained in the North End faithful’s eyeline having gone on international duty with the England Under-21 squad. Rather than sunning himself in Ibiza, this section of his summer has been spent in the Czech Republic, Kosovo, Chesterfield and Huddersfield.
Scoring in only his second appearance from the bench for the young Lions was a reminder – if one was ever needed – of his talents and why PNE want to bring him back to Deepdale for a full season if possible.
The Lilywhites are in Aston Villa’s hands with regards to him coming back, you just hopeful that Lowe’s friendship with Steven Gerrard and more importantly, the game time given to Archer between January and May, can swing a deal.
Already we are seeing reports of other clubs being interested in the 20-year-old which is not a surprise. Any young Premier League striker who scored goals in the Championship will be on the radar elsewhere.
Things are more clear-cut with Iversen and Van den Berg in that they won’t be coming back after both spending a season-and-a-half on loan at Deepdale, spells in which they shone.
Sometimes how a loan deal happens is carefully planned, other times it is due to circumstances.
PNE got on the phone to Leicester for Iversen when Declan Rudd suffered a knee injury in training in January 2021, one which was to ultimately bring an end to his career.
Van den Berg was a makeweight in Ben Davies’ move to Liverpool, the Reds offering the young Dutch defender to North End in a bid to get him some first-team football.
Both players have returned to their parent clubs with a wealth of first-team football under their belts, Iversen earning a call-up to the full Denmark squad and Van den Berg now a regular in the Netherlands’ Under-21s.
Through the seasons, I’d say North End have been just about more hit than miss with loan players. Not every signing will work out but a decent number have.
They’ve faired well with keepers – Iversen following a similar successful path to that of Rudd, Sam Johnstone and Jordan Pickford.
Outfield wise, they looked in the right place to find Anthony Gordon at Everton but neither Alex Neil or Frankie McAvoy could find a proper home for him in the team.
Perhaps that loan spell over the second-half of the 2020/21 season spurred Gordon on, made him determined to forge a place in the Toffees’ first-team.
Stephy Mavididi and Lukas Nmecha are two fairly recent loanees, here in 2017/18 and 2018/19 respectively.
North End got raw talent there rather than anything near to the polished article. Mavididi is now being talked about as a summer target for both West Ham and Southampton, potentially costing a big fee from French side Montpellier.
Nmecha is just coming off the back of a good season with German side Wolfsburg, having scored a bagful for Anderlecht in Belgium the campaign before.
Probably Nmecha and Mavididi’s time at Deepdale came a year or so too early in terms of development, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The loan market is an important tool for EFL clubs, predominantly trying to take players from the division or divisions above.
Must clubs in the Championship have loan players in their squads and that bit of top-flight quality or potential can make a difference.
For Premier League clubs and some in the Championship, the role of a loan manager is become a major one.
Such are the sizes of squads the top-flight clubs carry in terms of both first-team and Under-23s players, it is a full-time job getting players the football and game time needed.
Running alongside the need to get players game time is the business side of things – loan fees and a contribution to wages is a money-earner.
Loans are more of a business now, the transfer window system meaning they have to be for a full campaign or half a season. Once upon a time clubs could borrow players for a month or so, see how that worked out before trying to extend.
Remember David Beckham’s loan at PNE in 1995? North End liked the look of him, United wanted him to get a few first-team games and the rest is history.
Loans are a route PNE will undoubtedly take this summer, not just in their attempt to get Archer back, but to partly help them restock the goalkeeping department.
Hopefully such loans are successful to the point where this time next year, we are talking in similar terms about them to how we have done with Archer, Iversen and Van den Berg.