Not so long ago, we marked Morgan Schneiderlin’s arrival at Everton by citing the other hooligans to have worn full-backs’ numbers in midfield.
It should of course go without saying that numbers 2 and 3 are outside the remit of strikers, but doesn’t mean that it never happens, as Mohamed Kallon, Asamoah Gyan and Nicklas Bendtner have shown:
The latest addition to this club is Jordan Ayew, who joined Swansea City from Aston Villa over the transfer window – left-back Neil Taylor went the other way as part of the deal and the Ghanaian striker has taken the vacated number 3.
This article offers an explainer, albeit with questions someone who has no clue of football might ask (“So does he have to wear the number three throughout his time at Swansea?”), while also making the case that was the only available number below 50, as the numbers of on-loan players can’t be re-assigned.
That is a rule in the Football League but it was news to us that it’s the case in the Premier League. José Antonio Reyes took 9 at Arsenal in 2004 when Francis Jeffers was back at Everton on loan. This was something Arsenal chairman David Dein commented on at the time:
Franny is on a long-term loan to Everton, so his shirt is available. We would like to keep the numbers as close to one to 11 as possible. He would rather have number nine than a higher number.
It is not fair on the public that we give him a higher number and then we change it again. But as José says it is not the number on his back, it is how he plays the game. It is no reflection on Franny whatsoever.
At Manchester United, Juan Mata was given the 8 vactated by Anderson’s temporary move to Fiorentina. In the very same transfer window as Ayew joined Villa, Nathan Aké returned to Chelsea after a year and a half away, at Watford and Bournemouth and was able to resume in the number 6, though Baba Rahman had worn it in between before going off on loan himself, to Schalke 04.
The fact that Ayew is not unfamiliar with 3, having worn it on loan at Sochaux, may have been a factor, too. He acknowledged this in his first interview with the Swansea site, with the obligatory superficial look at ‘strange’ numbers at the bottom.
It’s not uncommon for me. I wore it in France when I was on loan at Sochaux.
Now I will wear it here, although I didn’t have much of a choice in numbers. But the number is not a problem – it’s more important to be on the pitch and in good shape.
Rules M4 and M5 of the Premier League handbook are kind of ambiguous, but surely joining a team on loan equates to “leaving”? If you’re not playing for a club for the rest of the season, the number is effectively vacant. As an aside, rule M3 about number a squad consecutively is flouted by pretty much everyone.
All we can do is hope that Ayew fails to score a single goal for Swansea, deterring any other strikers from trying to follow in his footsteps.