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Danny Stewart: Loans are a quick-fix that won’t go away any time soon

© SNS GroupCeltic's Jota during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Ross County at Celtic Park.
Celtic's Jota during a cinch Premiership match between Celtic and Ross County at Celtic Park.

What price the Premiership title race hinging on a contribution from a player from Benfica or Juventus?

Or the key man in the destination of the Scottish Cup to belong to Everton or Fulham?

Likewise, the battle to stay in the top flight being decided by a goal from a Rangers winger?

As a tremendously entertaining domestic campaign winds up to its climax, all are distinct possibilities.

Loans have long been part of Scottish football’s landscape, adding a bit of exoticism to the mix of seasoned pros and academy graduates.

What is unique is the leading part they could play in the outcome of all the season’s major unresolved issues.

It says it all about the impact Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers have made on their short-term deals from Benfica and Tottenham respectively, that the Celtic board have spent months trying to secure their services on a more permanent basis.

That despite combined transfer fees that would likely be in excess of £15-million.

Small wonder.

Jota is arguably the Premiership’s most-exciting talent of the season, while Carter-Vickers is the man around whom Ange Postecoglou has rebuilt his defence.

The Hoops manager has been philosophical about the chance he could become a victim of his own recruitment success in that other, richer, clubs will look at what the pair have achieved in Scotland, and snap them up for themselves.

What matters most, he argues with the confidence of a man who has proven he has the ability to pull a whole succession of rabbits out of multiple hats, is that they continue to produce right now.

The same applies even more so to Aaron Ramsey over at Ibrox.

One of the most-startling loan arrivals in memory, the Wales star was unquestionably a marquee signing.

Yet for all he scored the equaliser at Dundee last week that allowed Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side to seal a crucial victory, he has had a difficult time in Scotland, with a lack of match fitness severely restricting his opportunities to play.

It is one of the delights of a tight campaign that the Old Firm derbies in the next three weeks will afford him plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time.

It is hard not to think he was brought to Ibrox with such occasions in mind.

The day before Celtic and Rangers battle it out at Hampden for a place in the Scottish Cup Final, Hearts and Hibs will do likewise on the same pitch.

Here, once again, loans look set to play a crucial part.

The Jambos will go into the tie with their status as the best-of-the-rest this season secured.

In their first season back in the top flight, Robbie Neilson’s side have done a remarkable job in instantly re-establishing themselves as one of the powers of the Scottish game.

A big player for them in the second half of the campaign has been Ellis Simms, whose form has prompted calls for Frank Lampard to consider the 21-year-old Englishman for an extended run in the Everton first-team next season.

As much as a scoring threat he will be, the Hibees will be confident their own loan star, Sylvester Jasper, who provided assists for both goals in the quarter-final win over Motherwell, can be the key player.

Shaun Maloney harbours hopes of landing him on a permanent deal – but not all clubs will be so lucky.

Connor Ronan and Dylan Levitt, eye-catching talents for St Mirren, from Wolves, and Dundee United, with agreement from Manchester United, will be moving elsewhere when their deals are done.

The Irishman and Welshman have both contributed tremendous goals for their temporary employers.

At the same time, there are plenty who argue loanees at all clubs – while short-term fixes – are a roadblock on the route to the first-team for young Scottish talent.

And if there is little or no chance of signing a player at the end of the loan, then why take them on in the first place?

The counter-argument is that if in-house proteges are good enough, they will make it anyway.

Aberdeen took Matty Longstaff up from Newcastle United, but are ending the season with their former age-group captain, Connor Barron, playing regularly in the Pittodrie side’s first-team.

Sometimes, loans give Scottish kids at bigger clubs an opportunity, with Rangers winger Glenn Middleton currently gaining valuable experience with St Johnstone.

So for as long as managers believe they offer the prospect of an instant solution to a problem, they will continue to be as much a part of the Scottish game as a half-time pie and Bovril.