Date: 5th May 2009 at 9:01am
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Inflexible Football League jobsworth rules appear to be preventing the Clarets keeping hold of on loan defender, Rhys Williams for the key play-offs games this month.

Rhys Williams joined the Clarets on a 93-day loan from Middlesbrough in January.

This period effectively expired after playing our last game of the 2008/9 fixture list at home to Bristol City on Sunday. The 4-0 win against the Robins was a crucial victory which of course ensured our season was not yet over after finishing in 5th place in the Championship table and qualifying for the play-offs.

Football League rules however forbid an extension to the loan and we could therefore be losing a key defender at a key time. He would not be available to play in the Championship Play-Offs semi-final legs let alone the potential final at Wembley!

Owen Coyle has already been defeated in one appeal but is determined not to give up. He intends to make further representations to the Football League with a view to overturning this ruling.

Owen Coyle speaking to the Official Site has confimed the situation

‘We obviously have a number of injury concerns now ahead of Reading and Rhys Williams will probably miss out. Middlesbrough, at the time, wouldn’t give us the standard loan. It was an emergency loan and that means the 93 days expires on Monday.I wasn’t trying to be smart, but I sent an appeal letter six weeks ago because I believed this group of players would be good enough to get us into the play offs. That was turned down and I will obviously have another go because at the time we stated our intention to take Rhys until the end of the season.Middlesbrough, which I understand, wanted the chance to recall Rhys for the FA Cup and that’s why it was an emergency loan.But we are disappointed because he’s been great for us and I think we have been great for him.’

Let’s hope Coyle can make the FL see sense and that they then allow Rhys to see out the whole season with the Clarets, one that will hopefully see the team at Wembley in the Championship Play-offs final. If Middlesbrough agree to allowing the player this extra stay then I dont see what the problem is other than petty officialdom.

If the appeal fails what could this mean for our play-offs hopes and what are our alternatives?

In one sense providing we dont have any injuries to the back four then we are in a reasonable position and have two options for the right back role. Alexander could play there but Coyle would probably prefer to keep him in the holding midfield role. Michael Duff would be another obvious choice for right back.

One potential problem though could be Clarke Carlisle who limped off in our match against the Robins on Sunday. We have to hope he will be fit to play in the first leg of the Championship Play-Offs Semi-Final against Reading at Turf Moor this Saturday. If he doesn’t make it and Rhys Williams has returned to Middelsbrough, our only option might be to play Duff in the centre with Alexander at right back in a straight back four. Gudjonsson could play in the holding midfield role if Coyle still wants to consider that option.

Chris McCann is another option in the centre of defence and indeed he dropped back into that role on Sunday in the second half against Bristol City.

Another long shot option could be Russell Anderson, our on loan defender from Sunderland. He has spent virtually the whole season out with cruciate ligament damage but recently returned to training. Even if Russell Anderson is fully fit though, would Coyle want to risk starting such a player? He is bound to be a bit rusty after such a long lay-off without any competitive games. We could however see him on the bench before the season ends and you never know he might make an appearance at some stage.