10 loan players Scottish Premiership clubs should sign permanently

Hearts fans would love for winger David Milinkovic to stick around. Picture: SNSHearts fans would love for winger David Milinkovic to stick around. Picture: SNS
Hearts fans would love for winger David Milinkovic to stick around. Picture: SNS
Scottish Premiership clubs are not afraid to use the loan market. The 12 teams currently have 45 players on loan between them.

The problem clubs have is after six or 12 months the players return to their parent clubs. And if they have performed well they become difficult to acquire on a permanent basis and therefore have to be replaced.

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We have picked 10 players who clubs will be keen to retain in the summer:

Jamie Murphy - Rangers (on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion)

It was expected the player would sign permanently in January, but it wasn’t to be. In recent weeks the former Motherwell man has been electric. His arrival has given Rangers a player who is carries out his role on the left of the attack with real professionalism and diligence.

He works tirelessly on the flank out of possession before providing a real cutting edge and penetration when Rangers are attacking. Murphy very much plays ‘from the left’. While he can go down the outside of a full-back, he is most dangerous driving in field and linking with team-mates. In his last four outings he has netted three times and provided six assists. The short sample size has him second in the league for assists per 90 minutes.

Demetri Mitchell - Heart of Midlothian (on loan from Manchester United)

Hearts finally got their act together with the troubled left-back position. Many had tried and failed, some more than others, to make the position their own. Then along came Mitchell. Not only did he fix the problem at left-back, he also offered much-needed pace and width.

For a defender in Scotland he is technically excellent. Better as a wing-back having been switched from a winger not that long ago, his first thought is to go forward and is always looking to be positive when he is in the final third, whether it is a cross or shot. The reaction to his recent injury, keeping him out for two months, spoke volumes as to how highly he is rated by many at the club. There is one clear downside, more affluent clubs than Hearts will be interested in the summer.

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Ryan Christie - Aberdeen (on loan from Celtic)

Brendan Rodgers all but ruled out a permanent move for the player to Aberdeen. However, a lot can change, especially if Celtic are presented with an attacking midfielder on loan from a Premier League club. If Derek McInnes does lose Christie he will once again be tasked with replacing two influential midfielders in the summer with Kenny McLean also exiting.

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Christie offers the Dons a different proposition, as demonstrated in his absences when Aberdeen come up against Celtic. He is the creative fulcrum, leading the team with dribbles, assists - alongside Graham Shinnie and Stevie May - fourth for crosses and second for shots. He is involved in much of what Aberdeen do. If McInnes does managed to hold on to him there would be little surprise if he was handed the keys to the team.

Scott Allan - Hibernian (on loan from Celtic)

There is just something about playing for Hibs which suits the playmaker. While his form at Dens Park was largely indifferent, he was their main creative outlet. He continues to be just that but for a much stronger side, and instantly put in starring performances against Rangers at Ibrox and Aberdeen.

He is third in the league for number of through passes and fifth for key passes (passes which lead to shots), numbers which suits those playing ahead of him - an upgrade on what he was faced with at Dundee.

Realistically, Hibs will lose John McGinn in the summer, while Dylan McGeouch is still to sign a new deal. It is unlikely Allan has a future at Celtic Park. The permanent move to Leith makes sense and it would certainly take a bit of the sting out of losing one or both of McGinn and McGeouch.

Sean Goss - Rangers (on loan from Queens Park Rangers)

The Englishman was an unknown when Rangers signed him in the January transfer window. He was talked up by former colleagues and even compared to Michael Carrick. Such is the nature of Scottish football that the comparison raised a few sceptical eyebrows: a player of his type would have to be a step above to thrive in the midfield battlegrounds of the Scottish Premiership. Despite being 22 he had only played six first-team games for Queens Park Rangers. However, a handful of appearances later he has made many eat their words, including this writer.

For the first time in a few years Rangers have a deep-lying playmaker worthy of the title directing play in the midfield. His rangy build has aided him in the hustle and bustle, while he has legs all around him. He’s been notable for his positive passing and his ability to drop balls behind opposition defences or provide accurately into the feet of Alfredo Morelos. Plus, he is a handy set-piece taker. It will be intriguing to see how he handles the intensity of facing Celtic.

Nadir Ciftci - Motherwell (on loan from Celtic)

Ciftci’s strike against Partick Thistle in February was a crucial one. Not only did it earn Motherwell a point but it prevented the forward going two whole years without scoring a goal. It has been his only strike since ending his loan at Plymouth Argyle.

The Steelmen weren’t getting the same player who was at Dundee United. This is a different Ciftci. Ciftci the facilitator, rather than Ciftci the goalscorer. He still possesses the nuisance factor but most of his work is done away from the penalty area, that’s Curtis Main’s domain. He has provided Well with creative and technical qualities in the final third. He can draw fouls and link play. If he is signed permanently, Stephen Robinson may even get some more goals out of him and help him rediscover the United Ciftci.

Stuart Findlay - Kilmarnock (on loan from Newcastle)

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In a 3-1 defeat to Aberdeen, the defender was on the end of criticism from his own fans for his use of the ball. But in the intervening period he, along with many team-mates, has improved under Steve Clarke. The 22-year-old is a solid and competent option, both at centre-back and left-back.

He offers a safer and more robust approach than Greg Taylor at left-back when required, but it’s in the centre of defence where his future lies. In the opening months of the season Gordon Greer was a level above his defensive colleagues but Findlay has made the Scotland international, who has had his injury issues, an after-thought with some of his recent performances.

David Milinkovic - Heart of Midlothian (on loan from Genoa)

“At times he doesn’t retain information very long and he can be a little bit frustrating.” It’s not the most positive of endorsements by Craig Levein. Milinkovic, however, is regularly picked in spite of that particular foible because his positive qualities far outweigh the negative ones.

He may be inconsistent, like most wide men at this level, but he has fully endeared himself to the Hearts support for his work ethic (and a strong Instagram game). On loan from Genoa, he is pacy and direct.

There may be a propensity to dribble down blind alleys but his 3.61 dribbles per game average is a huge asset to Hearts. He is excellent in the transition, helping get the team on the front foot and into dangerous areas quickly. There is the raw materials for Levein to work with and turn into a very good player, who has already proven himself to be a goal threat.

Brandon Barker - Hibernian (on loan from Manchester City)

The winger is a frightening prospect, whether it is taking the ball from one box to another with his pace, as he did against Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi-final, or using his close control and slaloming skills to evade challenges. Only two other players have averaged more than Barker’s 4.68 dribbles per game. It is the 21-year-old’s strong suit, and he has found a manager and team which allows him to express himself - three of the league’s top five dribblers are Hibs players.

Where the player has fell down is in his end product. He has missed a number of good chances having weaved himself into position, or failed to deliver that cutting pass or cross. His one goal and three assists in the league should be much higher. But similar to a player on the other side of Edinburgh, what Hibs have is a naturally gifted talent who should develop and improve his decision making.

Conor Sammon - Partick Thistle (on loan from Heart of Midlothian)

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The Irishman has an unofficial and wordy prefix: ‘The much-maligned’. As Hearts struggled for goals earlier in the season and Sammon was finding the net for the Jags there was talk about a recall. From the player’s perspective it would have been a terrible decision. He is onto a good thing at Firhill, and it’s perhaps the most comfortable he has been on the pitch since he was being fed by Alexei Eremenko rather than Pizza Express.

One more goal will see the player hit his best season haul since that prolific campaign at Rugby Park when he netted 18. Thistle fans appreciate his work-rate, his endeavour. He can play as a lone striker or as part of a front two. He’s not the most aesthetically pleasing players but is an effective operator at the Premiership level.