Manager Malky Mackay has detailed the approach of Ross County when it comes to getting loanees to the Highlands and making them hits.
A recent study by transfer organisation, Transfer Room, found the Dingwall club were one of the world’s best clubs when it came to giving loan signings their chance to shine at first-team level last term.
A large group – Joseph Hungbo (Watford), Jake Vokins and Kayne Ramsay (Southampton), Jack Burroughs and Declan Drysdale (Coventry City) and Ash Maynard-Brewer (Charlton Athletic), Harry Clarke (Arsenal) and Alex Robertson (Man City) – made temporary switches to the Staggies and several of the players involved left the better for their time spent in Dingwall.
Mackay aims to run with less loan players overall going forward – however, this summer, winger Owura Edwards has joined from Bristol City, while Kazeem Olaigbe, another wide man, has come in from Southampton. A third loan agreement brought Sheffield United goalkeeper Jake Eastwood in to provide competition to number one Ross Laidlaw over the next 12 months.
Mackay, who became the County manager last pre-season, thinks the club’s success using the loan system begins with giving the players who join an experience which is the same one they are promised.
He said: “It is about relationships and us promoting this football club in an honest fashion.
“There is an authenticity about it and you get what it says on the tin when you come here.”
However, the Dingwall gaffer also thinks successful loanees arrive with the mindset of being Ross County players – and forget they are only on the Staggies’ books temporarily.
A “delighted” Mackay, who pointed to analyst Enda Barron’s work identifying the right targets, said: “The Scottish Premiership is a tough league and not everyone can handle it. You have to have the correct attitude and work ethic.
“You have to have the mentality that, for that year (of the loan deal) you become a Ross County player, you’re not a Southampton or Arsenal player. Those are the loan moves that actually work.
“One English Premier League club said to us at Christmas seven of their eight players who had gone out on loan hadn’t worked. The one here was the only one that did work and that is great credit to this football club and the boy.”
Post-loan reports show how well players have done – but also County’s attention to detail
Mackay revealed he has had good feedback from clubs in England, with County sending extensive reports on each loanees’ time with the Staggies which show how successful their spells have been.
He thinks this evidence of their attention to detail will encourage clubs to allow County to be part of the footballing journey for more “talented youngsters”, saying: “One of the English Premier League sides said we were the only club who at the end of the season sent them a full document on all aspects of their player, from training load, to match details, but more so in terms of the sports science and analysis part of it.
“It even came down to a report from our (club secretary) Fiona MacBean about how the boys settled into the environment.
“That’s fantastic, when a Premier League club in England gives you that feedback.
“It is important we show a real care and attention for other clubs’ players. You get really talented youngsters snapped up by the bigger clubs.
“We don’t get the chance to do that, so we show we can be part of their players’ progression for that club or to be sold to another club, whatever that may be.”
Fundamentally, Mackay insists being trusted as a club with loan players’ interests at heart is crucial when it comes to being successful with short-term, temporary, deals.
He added: “Is there someone with that X-factor who can come here and help us and we help them? It becomes a good year for our club, their club and the player.
“It all comes back to relationships and those clubs seeing us as a trusted partner, albeit a minor partner.
“But you are a trusted club for them to put their player to. We have to showcase that and show how we train and what our facilities are like, what their players’ week will be like.
“He will be looked after. At the same time, they have to come here and work hard to try and get in the team and train well.”