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Loan Recaps: Staying Close To Home In England

Liverpool had several notable loan players out both domestically and abroad. Today we take a look at how the guys who stayed in England fared, and what their futures might hold.

Michael Regan

Liverpool had a number of players out on loan this past season, to varying degrees of interest and success. Most of the more notable players they sent on loan in England did quite well, though, and it's well worth taking a look back over their seasons to see what all they did for their temporary clubs. The levels were varied, but so were the players involved, and their ultimate fates.

Some others, such as Craig Roddan, Michael Ngoo, and Jakub Sokolik, were much less successful, but have since been let go by the club, so don't warrant as close a look. For those others, some may go, some may stay, some may be headed back out on loan, but in the meantime, let's see what last season held for them.

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Andre Wisdom21 years old
Derby County (Championship), 10/22/13-5/31/14
Defender - Right Back
37 appearances, 37 starts
0 goals, 3 assists

While a loan for Andre Wisdom always seemed to be in the cards this past season, a sudden raft of injuries along Liverpool's back line necessitated that he stay at Anfield at the start of the season. Once that crisis was safely in the past, Wisdom left for Derby County in October to play for the struggling side under new hiring Steve McLaren, who was returning to managing in England after a spell as the head man at FC Twente in Holland.

Wisdom was immediately inserted into Derby's lineup at right back, and he didn't let go of the job for the rest of the season. His speed and athleticism played very well in the Championship, and although many see his future in the middle, playing wide for a coach like McLaren makes sense in order to develop Wisdom's technical skills. He truly thrived with Derby this season and had very few "bad days", an incident with is Porsche aside, and took a big step forward in his development.

It's hard to call this loan anything but a success for Wisdom. He played in a system not all that dissimilar from what we've seen Brendan Rodgers frequently employ with Liverpool, and played exceptionally well in it. The more we see of Wisdom, the brighter his future seems. Let's just hope most of that is with Liverpool.

What's Next: With Derby failing to gain promotion to the Premier League (curse you, Harry Redknapp!), it's unlikely he'll return there next season. Based on his performances last season, there's not much else for him to prove in the Championship, lest he risk not being challenged enough and taking a step back in his development as a result.

While remaining with Liverpool as defensive swing depth is certainly possible depending on what happens with the rest of the roster (especially Martin Kelly), don't be shocked if he gets a loan to a lower-table club in the Premier League, most likely one of the three newly-promoted sides. He'd likely be able to get plenty of playing time in the side this season thanks to Champions League football and the domestic cups, but the chance to get even more first team league playing time shouldn't be overlooked at this stage in his development.

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Fabio Borini23 years old
Sunderland (Premier League), 9/2/13-5/31/14
Forward - Striker
40 appearances, 29 starts
10 goals, 4 assists

After a miserable debut campaign blighted by injuries and a loss of finishing touch, Fabio Borini needed a chance to prove that he can hack it in the Premier League. With Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge locked in to starting roles and Iago Aspas on the bench, it seemed unlikely that Borini would get enough playing time at Anfield to create that proof, so he was shipped on loan to Sunderland, who initially seemed like a good fit because then-manager Paolo di Canio was seeming to favor Italian players in his squad.

That didn't turn out to be the case early on, as di Canio started Borini only once, giving him an hour against West Brom, and giving him a combined half hour in two substitute appearances. Then di Canio was fired for, well, being himself, and Gus Poyet was brought in, a move that was ultimately a turning point in Borini's season and potentially his career.

The Italian striker would score just once in the fall, netting the winner against Newcastle in the first leg of the Tyne-Wear derby, but come the winter Borini started coming up big repeatedly. He scored the equalizer and assisted the extra-time winner against Chelsea in the League Cup, added another of each tally against Newcastle, scored the winner against Manchester United in the League Cup, and netted the opener in the ill-fated League Cup final. Even when he wasn't scoring, Borini was putting in quality shifts for Sunderland, even though they were struggling against relegation all season long.

Borini didn't score again for over a month after the League Cup final, but went on a tear at the end of the season, scoring four times in Sunderland's last five matches to help them stay up in the Premier League. By the end of the season, he was the first attacker on the team sheet, and was beloved by the fans for his passion, versatility, and penchant for coming up the big moments. Just one year after being an afterthought, Borini has now confirmed himself as a perfectly acceptable striking option in the Premier League.

What's Next: With Champions League football beckoning and Iago Aspas having been a miserable failure as a backup option this season, there's definitely a need for Borini at Liverpool next season. His versatility in positioning and ability to bring the heat off the bench makes him immensely valuable for next season's campaign, and there will be a place for him even if Liverpool do bring in one or two attackers as is rumored to be the plan.

Of course, some fans still doubt his ability and value thanks to his first season with Liverpool, even in the face of all the success he had with Sunderland this past year. They would rather see him sold for a song, which seems like a mistake based on available evidence. Now, if a club like Sunderland or an upper-table Italian side came with a strong enough offer, it'd be hard for Liverpool to say no to selling a backup, but unless that (rather unlikely) scenario plays out, Liverpool should be very well served by keeping him around next season.

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Jack Robinson20 years old
Blackpool (Championship), 8/1/13-5/31/14
Defender - Left Back
36 appearances, 35 starts
0 goals, 3 assists

After seeing his development set back by injury last season, this loan was the first big chance for Jack Robinson to prove himself, and Blackpool seemed like a good place to do it in. They likely weren't going to challenge for promotion, but Paul Ince had them playing relatively attractive football, and their depth chart showed plenty of playing time potential for Robinson.

Playing time was exactly what he got. After coming in to Blackpool's first match of the season as a sub, Robinson started every other match he was available for, and on a whole was one of Blackpool's best players in an ultimately disappointing season for the side. Blackpool would finish just two points clear of relegation, and Ince left not long after his son was loaned away, leaving their captain, Barry Ferguson, to struggle along as player-manager for the rest of the season.

Robinson used his pace and technical skills reinvigorated by regular playing time to assert himself as one of the best left backs in the Championship last season, though with a notable asterisk to his successes. In part because of the foibles of his teammates, and in part because of youthful rashness, Robinson missed eight matches because of red cards. One was for a second yellow, but the other two were judged violent conduct, one of which was bad enough to earn him a fourth match suspended rather than the standard three for such conduct.

That's caused some concern among the Liverpool fanbase, enough for some to put him on their "to sell" list for this summer. That's ridiculous, though; Robinson is arguably Liverpool's best defensive prospect right now, and there's little reason to think that this is going to be a long-term issue for him.

What's Next: It's tempting to want to keep Robinson at Anfield next season; left back is a definite position of need, with Aly Cissokho looking unlikely to be purchased after his loan spell and with Jose Enrique's health being far from a lock. It just doesn't feel like he's quite ready to be part of a Champions League/EPL title push campaign, though, so another loan might be the better option for him.

Like Wisdom, his loan destination would be to a lower-table EPL side. If they can't find a way to secure Ryan Bertrand on a permanent deal, Aston Villa might be a good destination for Robinson, as their other current options at left back don't offer his dynamism or even really his current skill level.

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Oussama Assaidi25 years old
Stoke City (Premier League), 8/27/13-5/31/14
Forward - Left Wing
25 appearances, 15 starts
5 goals, 2 assists

After going from shock signing to unwanted afterthought, Oussama Assaidi was loaned to Stoke City in part to get him out of the squad and in part to try to rebuild some semblance of value. With Mark Hughes and his Tony-Pulis-with-a-smile coaching style at Stoke, that seemed like as good a place as any to send him for that objective.

Assaidi was in and out of the side for most of the early stretch of the season, but a beautiful substitute goal at the death to put Stoke up 3-2 over Chelsea was enough for Hughes to give him a more extended look. He went on to score twice more in Stoke's next five league matches, and from there he started or subbed in to every Stoke match he was healthy for.

While it's hard to call Assaidi's season truly "good", it was certainly a much better showing than his first Premier League campaign, and certainly achieved the main objective of giving him some sort of sale value again. Recouping his transfer fee this summer should be easy, which couldn't be said last summer. Assaidi certainly looks the part of a decent Premier League player, just not for a club like Liverpool.

What's Next: Assaidi has been heavily linked with a return to Stoke, and should that fall through there were rumors off and on after January of several Eredivisie clubs being interested. Assaidi won't be wearing a Liverpool shirt again, though it's hard to have any grudging feelings towards him. Good luck, kid.

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Jordon Ibe20 years old
Birmingham City (Championship), 2/21/14-5/10/14
Forward - Left Wing
11 appearances, 4 starts
1 goal, 1 assist

While the plan was originally to get Jordon Ibe a loan earlier in the season after getting a taste of Premier League and domestic cup action, an injury in October changed that plan. Instead, he had to wait until February for his loan, which minimized the experience he could get, though he managed to make the most of things once he got to Birmingham City.

Despite the club being in a late-season tailspin that saw them only stay up thanks to goal differential and a last-day draw, Ibe made a good accounting for himself while he was in Birmingham. Playing in eleven of the fifteen matches he was around four and making four starts, Ibe nabbed a quality goal in his second start, a driven right footed effort from near the top of the box on a loose ball to give Birmingham their first goal in a vital 3-2 road win over rival Millwall.

Otherwise, Ibe played quite well, using his speed as an asset to disrupt the defense, especially when coming off the bench late in matches. While it wasn't a standout loan performance, just getting the games was valuable for Ibe, who capped off his season coming back to Liverpool for a stellar performance in a friendly against Shamrock Rovers, and then getting a hat trick on Saturday for the England U19s against Montenegro.

What's Next: While some Liverpool fans are expecting him to make a first-team impact next season thanks to Raheem Sterling comparisons, the smart move for Ibe's future would be to give him another Championship loan, in order to secure him as much playing time as possible. Who to doesn't much matter, as long as they play at least decent attacking football and can give him regular starts.

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Conor Coady21 years old
Sheffield United (League One), 7/22/13-5/31/14
Midfielder - Central Midfield
50 appearances, 42 starts
6 goals, 4 assists

Once one of Liverpool's brightest youth prospects, Conor Coady has completely stalled out over the last few years. Now all but out of favor in the club's youth hierarchy, Coady needed a chance to succeed while out on loan in order to secure any potential of a future with Liverpool, and Sheffield United stepped up with an offer of enough playing time to give him that chance.

United's season, and Coady's along with it, started miserably, with the club flirting with relegation places through October. Coady rarely seemed comfortable out on the pitch, and many feared that League One was too advanced for him at this stage, which would be a death knell for any hope of a Premier League career. The Nigel Clough came in as manager, and everything changed for both Sheffield United and Conor Coady.

Clough was initially gentle with breaking Coady back in to the team, then interestingly started using him as a defensive winger for a run of matches against clubs higher up the table. For whatever reason, that seemed to really settle Coady in to the side, and after Clough tucked him back in to central midfield as a box-to-box mid, Coady soon became one of Sheffield's best players.

It may seem a little dramatic to say, but Nigel Clough probably saved Coady's career. If he had continued to struggle along like he was, he likely would have been bounced to a League Two side at best next season, but now he has the success and confidence to hope for more. His physical and technical limitations mean it's still unlikely that he becomes a Premier League regular, but at least now there's still a chance.

What's Next: Coady did well enough with Sheffield that he deserves a shot at a Championship loan. It'd be nice to keep him with Clough and Sheffield for the familiarity, but they just missed out on the promotion playoff (which they were hot enough at the end of the season to possibly win), and another season in League One won't do Coady much good in terms of development. Hopefully he responds well to the challenge and gets a shot at time in Liverpool's first team in 2015.

We'll be back later in the week with a foreign loan roundup.

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