According to a report in The Times, Crystal Palace will become the first Premier League club to offer their players out on loan for free to lower league sides on the understanding that they are guaranteed first-team football.
Whilst there are plenty of lower league clubs who would love to take on players who are just unable to break into Premier League first-team squads, the ever-increasing financial chasm between the top flight and the lower tiers has made it almost impossible for them to service the fees involved. Having recognised this, it looks as though Palace are set to bridge the gap themselves, with the only caveat being that their fringe players are assured of first-team football throughout their loan move.
I am of course mindful of the fact that telling lower league clubs who to select in their matchday squad feels a little murky but similarly, I can understand it being looked upon as a fair trade-off from our side of the fence. As a club with a proud history of youth development, Palace have been backed into a corner by the never-ending quest for Premier League points. Sceptics will point towards the meteoric rise to stardom of Aaron Wan-Bissaka as proof of the success that can come with giving youngsters a chance but in reality, unproven teenagers are unlikely to ever displace established stars in the first-team from a standing start.
When you consider the fine results we’ve had at U18 and U23 level in the last couple of seasons, it’s fair to suggest that at least two or three youngsters will have what it takes to make it to the top tier of the English game but without regular starts in a truly competitive league, the likes of Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington will continue to hold nagging doubts over their match-readiness.
Could we be end being trendsetters for the rest of the Premier League? Only time will tell but I can certainly see a few others looking to follow our lead in the months and years to come.