The chant of "Sign him up, sign him up, sign him up" is generally only heard at football grounds when the ball has struck a policeman on the head and rebounded back on to the pitch. On the occasions when it isn't intended sarcastically, by and large it ends in tears. When fans fall in love with a loan signing it's like a kid bringing a stray puppy home. Something about the situation just compels a manager to put his foot down and growl, "I don't care how cute he looks running around with his tongue hanging out. He's going right back where he came from".
Back in January 1995, Middlesbrough took a former Germany Under-21 international on loan from Kaiserslautern. Uwe Fuchs (In the UK always genteelly pronounced to rhyme with dukes, though as a German friend of mine likes to point out "It's actually Fux! Fux, fux, fux!") was a burly, dark-haired striker whose crazed grimace suggested Les Dawson's Cosmo Smallpiece let loose at an Ann Summers party.
Uwe arrived at Ayresome Park via the intervention of Tony Woodcock who touted him as "an English-style centre-forward", words which are to football what the phrase "contains mechanical reclaimed meat" is to fine dining.
Though at times Uwe showed unexpected touches of finesse, generally speaking there was something agricultural about him. He was one of those people who look like they have straw in their hair even though they don't. He played like he was in wellies. If George Best was the fifth Beatle, Uwe was the missing Wurzel. His technique was rustic in its simplicity: whenever he received the ball he propelled it as hard as he could in the general direction of the opposition net with whatever part of his body happened to be available at the time. By such means he found the back of the net nine times in 13 games and became a Teesside folk hero.
As if to cement Uwe's place in legend, rumours began to circulate that the bucolic-looking goal-getter was romantically entwined with local female celebrity, Jet from Gladiators whose habit of turning cartwheels on the Ayresome Park pitch at half-time had plainly overheated imaginations. One afternoon a "Uwe Loves Jet" banner was unveiled in the Holgate End. And when Boro winger John Hendrie appeared with a black eye the quickfire explanation offered on the terraces was that the Scots' training ground remarks about the glamorous gameshow personality had resulted in a scuffle (that Hendrie had actually picked up the shiner in a bruising encounter with Barnsley's Malcolm Shotton – a veteran defender who approached every game as if he had been parachuted behind enemy lines – hardly mattered).
As the season drew to a close, Uwe's appearances became more sporadic. His last game, against Sheffield United, was not the finale anyone would have wanted. In a gloomy mood after apparently being poked in the eye by a Blades centre-back, he made a half-baked attempt to gain retribution via the sort of arse-first tackle to which English-style centre-forwards are prone and was sent off.
Two days after the end of the season, Bryan Robson announced that he would not be taking up the £500,000 option to make Fuchs' move permanent. "He is not a footballer," the Boro manager observed of the German, proving once again how little the ability to bang the ball into the goal is valued by top-class football people who really know the game inside out. And Bryan Robson.