It turns out the international break can do EFL clubs a big favour.
At least that’s the view taken by League One Barnsley and Wycombe this weekend. Both clubs found themselves without a first and second-choice keeper for their respective clashes with Accrington and Sunderland – a predicament which prompted late dives into the loan market for reinforcements.
But for how long? A month? Two months? Until the end of the season? No. One game. Just one, small, solitary game.
Thanks to the league’s emergency seven-day loan system, clubs are permitted to bring in a goalkeeper if their only other option has made less than five professional career appearances. And with this weekend being part of the international break, that meant Championship goalkeepers who wouldn’t usually be available on such a deal were able to flee the nest for a one-off outing.
For Wycombe, who approached this weekend with Ryan Allsop and understudy Yves Ma-Kalambay sidelined, ex-stopper Matt Ingram returned to the club from QPR. Meanwhile, Barnsley were able to call upon Nottingham Forest’s Jordan Smith due to captain Adam Davies being on international duty with Wales and Jack Walton out with a cruciate injury.
How did they fare?
It was very nearly a fairytale return for Ingram. The local lad, who made more than 100 appearances in a four-season spell with the Chairboys, was five minutes away from a clean sheet at the Stadium of Light. Josh Maja equalised late on for the Black Cats, but there was still time for Ingram to make a vital stop from Max Power in the dying moments.
After the game, he told the Wycombe website it was a “dream come true” to join up with the club again and claimed he’d “love to stay” if given the opportunity.
According to Barnsley boss, Daniel Stendel, Smith received a round of applause from teammates after keeping Accrington Stanley at bay in a 2-0 triumph for The Tykes. The win moved Barnsley to within two points of second-placed Sunderland in League One.
What next for the pair?
Ultimately, this provided an opportunity for both goalkeepers to play 90 minutes of first-team football they’d have been unlikely to gain at their parent clubs.
Ingram has been frozen out at QPR after playing in their four-game losing streak at the start of the campaign, while Smith hasn’t made a single league appearance for Forest since January.
In theory, all parties should be content. Both goalkeepers will be happy with game time and the recipient clubs concerned have benefited from a successful short-term solution.
Yet while it appears Smith will rejoin his colleagues at the City Ground, there could be more in the Ingram story. Wycombe’s two senior stoppers are set for a lengthy period on the treatment table, meaning manager Gareth Ainsworth could be forced to opt for stability in a longer-term loan as opposed to frequently dipping into the emergency seven-day option.
For Ingram, it’s a no-brainer. “Personally, I’d love to stay until the lads are back from injury,” he added. “But the decision is out of my hands. What will be, will be.”