Loan rangers
English football’s emergency striker signings
Published: Jun 11, 2020 03:23 PM

Henrik Larsson Photo: VCG

While Manchester United's loan deal for Shanghai Shenhua striker Odion Ighalo initially raised eyebrows but has since raised expectations of a top-four finish for the English Premier League side, the Nigerian is far from the only short-term scoring solution in football.

Emergency loan deals often seem to put the stress on the first word in the phrase. While they are most often associated with goalkeepers, purely by the specialist nature of the position and the need for at least one of them when a team takes the field, the other end of the pitch has as rich a history of clutching at straws.

Here is a timely reminder of emergency strikers - either short-term loans or free agents - in English football.

Shefki Kuqi to Newcastle United

Andy Carroll had just left the Toon for the "Pool" and while nobody who supported Newcastle would begrudge their hometown hero a shot at stardom with a bigger club - and one that might actually win trophies - they certainly had an issue with owner Mike Ashley.

The lack of investment in the team was only matched by the club's lack of ambition under him, as was typified by the signing of Finnish finisher Kuqi who had been released by Swansea City.

He arrived as a free agent while the 35 million pounds for Carroll sat in the bank, with the only thing close to the fee recieived from Liverpool the Finn's age. Kuqi was 34 and had last played in the Championship for Swansea City, where he did not exactly set the world alight, and he would not change that in Newcastle. He played six times and did not score before being released.

Roy Essandoh to Wycombe Wanderers

The lower-league side were up against Leicester City in the quarterfinal of the FA Cup in 2001 and were also without a striker. The club's manager Lawrie Sanchez, a man who had tasted FA Cup success when his Wimbledon side beat favorites Liverpool in the final in 1988, was not going to take this lying down.

He decided to advertise on Teletext - a service that was linked to terrestrial TV channels and worked as an early, largely non-interactive version of the modern internet - for a striker. Fit and non-cup tied were his only demands and somehow, again there was no internet like we know today, Essandoh's agent saw the call.

The big man had been playing with Rushden & Diamonds earlier in the campaign but after being let go he became even more precious to Sanchez's side. He scored the late winner against the Foxes for the Chairboys to get a seat in the semifinals. It was his only goal: they lost the semi and he was sent packing at the end of the season.

Andy Booth to Tottenham Hotspur

Boothy was - and still is - a Huddersfield Town legend, with 137 goals for The Terriers across two spells but the burly striker had moved across Yorkshire by the time his Spurs swan song came around, playing with Sheffield Wednesday in the second tier.

Spurs were in one of their regular injury crises and with Les Ferdinand, Stefan Iversen and Chris Armstrong all out injured, they needed someone to fill in up front.

David Pleat was director of football at White Hart Lane at the time and knew Booth from bringing the striker to Sheffield in 1996 and he decided to reunite with him once more at Spurs.

Bizarrely, he would be partner to Ukrainian Sergei Rebrov, the club's record signing and former foil to countryman Andriy Shevchenko in one of Europe's most deadly pairings.

Booth would only play four games for Spurs and was something of a tourist during his time in London - but at least he struck up a partnership of sorts with the injured Ferdinand.

"After the games on Saturday I'd go into London with my wife and we'd experience the nightlife with Les Ferdinand getting us guest lists passes in all the places," he later told the Huddersfield Examiner.

Les Ferdinand to Watford

The ticketmaster of Tottenham was not able to stay at White Hart Lane forever and he found himself heading north from North London to Hertfordshire's finest.

He was signed as what seemed to be an emergency striker, but Ferdinand had a different idea, as he told the Watford Observer.

"It was more with the intention of detraining myself out of football," the former England international said. "I had been in football all my life and what most players find is that all of a sudden you wake up and there is nothing. And I just thought to myself this was an opportunity to wean yourself off football."

He did just that, retiring before the 2005-06 season even kicked off.

Henrik Larsson to Man United

The Celtic legend had returned home to Sweden with Helsingborgs as he saw out his career but there was a short time in the stormy skies of Manchester to come before he hung up his boots.  

Alex Ferguson coaxed him over for three months and Larsson impressed, despite being 35, even if he only scored once in the English Premier League - and the same total in both the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Ferguson was certainly a fan and tried to get him to stay until the end of the season but instead he returned to Sweden when their own season began. 

"He's been fantastic for us; his professionalism, his attitude, everything he's done has been excellent," Ferguson said.

Amr Zaki to Wigan

Wigan and Zamalek might be close to one another on the A-Z of club sides but Egypt and the English Premier League are a world apart. That did not bother the striker one bit when he swapped the Land of the Pyramids for the Land of Pies in 2008. He hit seven in his first eight games and was top of the scoring charts - something quite unprecedented in the blue and white of the Latics. It all ended badly after Zaki kept coming back late from Egypt duty but it was good while it lasted.