Daniel Chapman: Loan signings don't set the pulse racing for Leeds United, but Eddie Nketiah just might

Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah.
Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah.
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Loan signings just aren’t that exciting. They might be economically sensible, but nobody became a football fan because hitching their adult emotions to 11 players chasing a bag of wind felt like a rational thing to do.

Football is supposed to be escapism, a way of swapping the pressures of your everyday life for the opportunity of putting pressure on Patrick Bamford instead.

Your favourite team dropping the price of a hospital wing on his potential replacement is all part of the thrill. If you don’t think so, Jim White will bombard you with yellow ties and shouting until you do.

Adam Forshaw said last week he couldn’t wait to sit down with the telly and a cup of tea to absorb all the deadline-day news.

Perhaps he risked the wrath of Marcelo Bielsa’s body mass spot checks by sneaking himself a chocolate biscuit when the only excitement reported at Thorp Arch was teenage goalkeeper Illan Meslier, a spidery back-up to Kiko Casilla.

Meslier was joined by Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah – another loan – who falls into a slightly different category. Two adjacent pundits on my Twitter timeline described him as ‘the next Tammy Abraham’ and ‘the next Ian Wright’ and, if they’re both right, he’ll be some player.

His move was delayed while Arsenal were weighing up using him in their Premier League squad, and Victor Orta had to turn on his sweet talk to lure him away from Unai Emery.

Bristol City boss, Lee Johnson, was powerless as his target’s head was turned, left screaming ‘Bielsa’s not all that!’ like a spurned Love Islander melting down.

Nketiah is, on paper, the loan player we’ve been crying out for.

While Aston Villa had Abraham and Tyrone Mings last season, we had Izzy Brown and Lewis Baker, and a feeling like we’d been cheated. This feels more like the market done right.

Leeds couldn’t buy Nketiah: he’s not for sale and, if he was, we’d have to sell Elland Road to afford him (does Derby’s owner want to buy another stadium? Worth a call). See also Jack Harrison, who Manchester City think is worth £20m and who we’re getting two seasons out of for less than £5m.

In 1989/90 Howard Wilkinson bought the quality he needed for promotion by shopping near the top of the First Division, but the price gap to the Premier League and its hoarding of players makes that impossible now.

We’d have got Lee Chapman on a loan in January back then but, if he scored the same goals to take us up, would it have mattered?

In one way it’s a shame Eddie Nketiah won’t build a long association with Leeds, like Chapman or Allan Clarke. But in the Championship we’re looking for one-season heroes, players we’ll remember just for winning promotion.

We’re trying desperately to break up with the EFL here, and will jump into anybody’s arms, even if it’s only a fling.

Although he was maligned at the time, one of the lynchpins of our last promotion, from League One in 2009/10, was loanee midfielder Michael Doyle. Amid moans and groans, he wore the no4 shirt in 40 league matches, and it was only after he went back to Coventry City that we realised how important he’d been.

Amdy Faye and Michael Brown were permanent replacements, but neither gave as much to the cause as our part-time ‘Doyler’.

Eddie Nketiah was paraded for the crowd at Elland Road on Saturday like an exciting new signing and, contract terms aside, he is.

His Premier League reputation and potential price tag puts pressure on Bamford the way a permanent signing from the EFL or abroad might not.

Nketiah was trying to take Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shirt at Arsenal, so he should have no trouble imagining he can take Patrick Bamford’s, if United’s no9 doesn’t sharpen his finishing.

The competition should be good for both of them – and it’s good for us, even if it’s only for a season.

If it gets you more excited to imagine we paid a fortune for Nketiah, rather than a financially effective loan fee ensuring FFP compliance in the economic medium term, and so on, and blah, then do that, and let your mind run wild.

Football is supposed to be escapism, after all.

Daniel Chapman has co-edited Leeds United fanzine and podcast The Square Ball since 2011, taking it through this season’s 30th anniversary, and seven nominations for the Football Supporters’ Federation Fanzine of the Year award, winning twice. He’s the author of a new history book about the club, ‘100 Years of Leeds United, 1919-2019’, and is on Twitter as MoscowhiteTSB.