The Tottenham loan success story that has gone completely under the radar

Matthew Craig has enjoyed a very productive loan spell with League One side Doncaster Rovers this campaign
Matthew Craig has enjoyed a very productive loan spell with League One side Doncaster Rovers this campaign -Credit:MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Saturday afternoon could see Doncaster Rovers cap off a remarkable achievement by sealing a place in the League Two play-offs following an astonishing run of form. Down in 22nd and seven points above the relegation zone back in February, the South Yorkshire club now have the opportunity to secure a play-off berth by registering a point at Gillingham in their final game of the campaign.

Another three points would secure fifth place and home advantage in the second leg of a play-off tie that comes with it, although a point could even be enough for Doncaster providing that results go their way on the final day. The League Two side's play-off charge has been quite incredible, winning their last 10 successive league fixtures to come from nowhere to take their place in the top seven.

Putting themselves firmly in the play-off picture in recent weeks, Tuesday evening finally saw Rovers move into the play-offs following a 4-1 triumph away at relegation-threatened Colchester United. Tottenham will certainly be keeping an eye on how Doncaster fare this weekend and in the play-offs if they do indeed remain there as Spurs youngster Matthew Craig is currently on loan with Grant McCann's side.

Part of the Tottenham first-team matchday squad on a handful of occasions in the past, the 21-year-old was handed his senior bow 11 months ago as the Lilywhites ran riot in a 4-1 win over Leeds United. Introduced for the final 13 minutes of the contest by interim head coach Ryan Mason, the former Spurs midfielder hailed his player after the game and revealed that Craig's debut was "not a gift" as he had merited it following the hard work he had put in on a consistent basis.

Just not able to get a look in this term under Ange Postecoglou, the midfielder's game time came in Premier League 2 before a loan switch to the Eco-Power Stadium was finalised in early January. With a number of Spurs' loan agreements not exactly going to plan in recent months, that's one thing you cannot say about Craig's time in Doncaster.

The Scotland Under-21 international has started 17 of his 18 appearances for Rovers, playing a big part in their ten-game winning streak in the process. In Doncaster Free Press, Craig was given a score of seven out of ten for his performance in Tuesday's win at Colchester.

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They wrote: "Cute touches and plenty of bite in the tackle from the Tottenham loanee. Played a key part in helping ensure this marvellous run continues."

No doubt helped by having McCann - a former midfielder himself in the EFL - as manager, Craig has also benefited from getting his first real taste of senior football on a consistent basis. It has been a move that has proved to be a huge success for all concerned and perhaps a contender for Tottenham's best loan deal of the 2023/24 season.

Quite what comes next for Craig, who signed a new Tottenham deal until the summer of 2026 last July, remains to be seen. Another loan move at a higher level would be hugely beneficial to the player, with Doncaster no doubt wanting to lure him back to the football club whether or not they are promoted to League One come next month.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post one month ago, Craig was asked about whether he could return to Doncaster next season and he appeared open to another spell with McCann's side.

"Yeah - I've really liked it here," admitted the midfielder. "I think at the end of the season, we'll see what Spurs say as well. So far, I've really enjoyed my time here."

He added: "I've loved it - I've loved every minute. Being able to come here, and being able to experience senior football, is something which I've really enjoyed. You see games within the league and you can't wait to get out and play.

"You have conversations with Spurs about where they think is best for you and when you should go out. I've been lucky enough that I've been allowed to come here and get some games. First loan, obviously for me, I think I've really learnt a lot here in the couple of months I've been here so far. I've been really lucky, I've come to a club that's really helped me, and a squad that's embraced me.

"With it being my first loan, you don't have any experience which I think leaves you open to adjust to what happens. You come in knowing the physicality side of it, it's going to be massively important. I think it has been. Over the time, I think I've managed to adjust to that quite well."

Craig has undoubtedly managed to adjust during his time at Doncaster, with his run of 17 starts from his 18 appearances very much highlighting his place in McCann's thinking. A couple more appearances and perhaps a start at Wembley Stadium will come his way if Rovers do achieve their play-off goal on Saturday and proceed to go all the way with promotion to League One up for grabs.

This weekend's trip to Gillingham will not be straightforward at all but the form book is very much on Doncaster's side after equalling a club-record run of ten successive wins. It has been some spell for both Craig and Doncaster and one they will be intent on maintaining with promotion to League One on the horizon.

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