ANYONE who reckons the loan system doesn’t work should have a chat with Ashley Eastham and Tom Barkhuizen.
While their Blackpool team-mates are busy trying to win promotion, the two graduates from the Seasiders youth team have been earning their stripes away from Bloomfield Road.
Both are embroiled in relegation scraps – Eastham trying to keep Bury in League One, Barkhuizen doing his best to ensure Hereford don’t slip out of the Football League.
Both have established themselves as regulars. Eastham has excelled in the heart of the Shakers back four, while Barkhuizen has proved himself to be one of the hottest strikers in the basement division.
Their progress has not gone unnoticed in Blackpool.
“I’ve spoken loads of times about the amount of good players we have at this club, but sometimes people forget about lads like Ashley and Tom,” boss Ian Holloway said.
“We sent them out because we have a big squad and no reserve team and they wouldn’t have got much football had they stayed.
“But they’ve now played loads of games, really come on as players, and they will strengthen our squad next season. It is good to have young lads like that coming through.”
Eastham, who has previously been out on loan at Cheltenham, reckons this season’s Bury stay is just what he needed.
“I had a chat with the gaffer early in the season,” said the 21-year-old. “He always lets you know where you stand and he still felt – as I did really – that I wasn’t quite ready for Blackpool’s first team.
“I jumped at the chance to go to Bury but it was my first time in League One and there was a question mark hanging over me – I was thinking ‘Am I ready for this, am I capable of it?’
“So from my point of view it’s a big tick in the box. I’ve played more than 30 games and I’ve been happy with the majority of my performances.
“I now have a lot more experience than many other people my age and I feel like I’ve developed all parts of my game this season. I’ve kicked on as a player and a person.”
Barkhuizen feels the same. In his case, the born and bred Blackpool lad has had to leave home for the first time, living in digs in Hereford.
“It has been a massive learning curve in terms of growing up as a person, just little things like having to cook for yourself ... chicken and pasta is my speciality because it’s easy!” he said.