Easter football is upon us, which is typically the time where teams either get their act together for a promotion/play off push, or, if you are QPR, completely capitulate and take a nosedive towards the relegation zone, apparently.
And what better a way to spend an early Good Friday evening than to welcome Hull City to the Stadium of Light, live on Sky Sport for the 203rd time this season?
Much like with Boro, we have shared about a billion players with Hull down the years, owing largely to the fact that it’s not as far away as literally every other team in the country. There’s been some big names too, but we’ll save the likes of Raich Carter, Don Revie and…Steve Harper for another time. Instead, we’re going to start with a player I unashamedly loved at Sunderland.
The man mountain himself, French-born Senegalese international midfielder, Alfred N’Diaye spent the formative years of his career in his homeland with Nancy, before making a move to Bursaspor in Turkey in 2011. After 18 months in Bursa, N’Diaye was spotted by then Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill and made the move to the Premier League in January 2013.
Built like the proverbial brickhouse, stronger than He-Man himself, and more than decent with the ball at his feet, N’Diaye seemed to tick every box that Sunderland’s midfield had been missing for years.
N’Diaye added a menacing presence to the centre of the park, and was immortalised by standing statue-still, hands behind his back while defending a free-kick against Leighton Baines at home to Everton in a rare win towards the end of that season.
So, why did his enter Sunderland career come to a grand total of 16 appearances, all in the second half of the 12/13 season? The simple answer is two part; first, because he joined at the peak of O’Neill’s gradual slide towards relegation, and the second, his replacement was Paolo Di Canio.
I’m not aware of any actual fallout between Di Canio and N’Diaye, but given the former’s stance on jumpers and condiments, and N’Diaye’s departure back to Turkey at Eskisehirspor (definitely made up), and it’s not too far of a stretch to say that at best, Di Canio just didn’t fancy him, and shipped him out the door as soon as possible.
The loan lasted six months, before being terminated in January 2014, when he was then loaned out to Betis in Spain, where he suffered relegation from La Liga, but ultimately signed on a permanent basis at the end of that season. A move to Spanish big-ish boys Villarreal followed in 2016, but he only managed to make nine appearances in his three years at El Submarino Amarillo, instead he got his playing time with three loan spells.
The first of which was with this week’s opponents, Hull City in 2017, as he made his return to the Premier League. His stint as a Tiger couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, scoring on his debut against Liverpool as Hull snatched an unlikely win in their bid for survival – they won 2-0 and even Oumar Niasse scored, lovely stuff.
However, that survival bid fell on its arse and Hull were relegated after all – you may remember Sunderland needlessly knocking Hull boss Marco Silva’s then immaculate home record, essentially dooming the Tigers out of spite, as we’d already been relegated by then. Billy Jones scored, it was very, very funny.
N’Diaye’s final game for Hull came in a 7-1 battering at the hands of Spurs, and he headed back to Spain…for two months. The midfielder returned to England in August 2017 on loan with Wolves, despite the fact that he is not Portuguese. N’Diaye was a mainstay for Wolves during their all all-conquering, Championship winning season, playing 36 times all in, but that was not enough to win him a permanent move and back to Villarreal he went in summer 2018.
Immediately sent back out on loan, he spent the 18/19 season at Malaga in the Segunda Division, before finally being freed by Villarreal in 2019, where he headed to Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab.
Two seasons in the ridiculous heat and immaculate human rights record of Saudi Arabia was enough for Alf though, and he headed back to Spain again at the start of the current season, returning to Malaga.
Now aged 33, I will have to retire my dream of him one day coming back to us, but he did go on to be a full Senegal international and played at the 2018 World Cup after departing Wearside, so who’s the real winner here?
The year is 2004, Sunderland have failed to get out of the First Division at the first time of asking, and are setting themselves up for another go at it, in the newly branded Championship. Mick McCarthy guts the squad of older players and brings in a stream of exciting unknowns; Dean Whitehead, Stephen Elliott and Liam Lawrence.
Our regular right back (Stephen Wright) is constantly injured, so we need to find someone to help him out, in comes another youngster we’ve never heard of. This one has played Champions League football. This right back is Mark Lynch.
The aforementioned Champions League football was Lynch’s debut, and sole appearance for Man Utd, starting against Deportivo la Coruna, and he promptly scored an own goal as United lost 2-0. Lynch moved to Sunderland in July 2004, and was, I am afraid to say, absolutely atrocious.
Largely used as a sub, or if he started, almost never finished a game, Lynch looked tragically out of his depth in almost every appearance, often waiting months between games. His final appearance came in a 2-1 home win against Cardiff in February 2005, where he was subbed off injured after 36 minutes, and he was never seen again.
Released that summer, he then moved to Hull, where he promptly got sent off in his second appearance. 15 unremarkable games later and that was it for his time at Hull too. Lynch’s final few seasons saw him turn out for Yeovil, Rotherham and Stockport, before packing it all in at the end of the 11/12 season. He’s now a personal trainer in Wilmslow, in Cheshire.
My apologies to you Mark Lynch, but you were the original Donald Love.