Getting future Premier League stars on-loan can be make or break for clubs in the Football League. From the Championship down to the Conference even, attracting young, hungry players who are after a chance can make or break a season for those looking to progress up the Football league ladder.
And Birmingham City can look no further to the performances of former Barcelona academy starlet Jon Toral, who is on a season-long loan from Arsenal.
First, I think it’s important to point out that the loan deal is massive for both sides. For Birmingham it gives them an up-and-coming player, full of flair that wants to break into a very strong Arsenal side. For the Gunners it means a chance to get a proper look at their player on a weekly basis, with improvement almost certain. It also gives Toral a proper footballing education. For all that you will learn in the academies of Barcelona and Arsenal, the best learning will always come on the pitch, getting minutes week-in, week-out.
And in the Championship it’s a tough lesson you will learn. It’s a division that requires grit and determination- a league that is notoriously difficult to get out off.
Whilst Toral is progressing nicely, without grabbing worldwide headlines, it’s interesting to look to his Spanish counterpart Hector Bellerin, who has been given his big break by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger this season. And he has not let him down, firmly cementing his place in the team and delivering big performances. A brief loan-spell at then Championship Watford was seemingly important in Bellerin’s development, and much like Toral it helped him get to the top.
And following a second season in the Championship (he was with Brentford last term), Toral says he is enjoying his football whilst learning on the job too.
“It is a different type of season for me. Last season was my first professional season. I learnt a lot and I think I am learning other things here as well. I am getting minutes and that is what I need. I am enjoying it a lot,” said Toral.
“I spoke to the manager before I came here and I knew exactly what he wanted from me. I am learning as well in that role. The positions I am getting in I should get more goals. But if I keep getting in those positions I am confident that I will get my goal tally a little bit higher.
“I also try to create for others as well, that is important. But I think I should score more as well,” added Toral.
And funnily enough, it’s Toral’s former loan side Brentford that are next up for Blues, when they travel to St Andrews on Saturday.
Wouldn’t it be apt if Toral delivered a performance that showed why Brentford gave him his first chance, and a performance that shows the faith showed by the Bees could in-fact make him a future star.
Images- Birmingham Mail, The Standard, Sky Sports