With the impending addition of Sulley Muntari to the Sunderland squad, SAFC are collecting Ghanaian's like they're going out of fashion. However, it's not the first time SAFC has become infatuated with a country. Karl Jones, football writer for the online magazine 'A Different League' takes us through SAFC's recent 'scouting' history...
Amidst the furore of Sulley Muntari’s potential arrival at the Stadium of Light a delightful chord rung in my ears. That, ladies and gentleman, usually means it is time to pen my thoughts. But the new signing wasn’t on my mind, not directly anyway, it was more the fact that Muntari will become the third Ghanaian in the Sunderland squad, should he join.
Any regular on the Football Manager series will be familiar with the ‘ask player to recommend an international team-mate’ feature that has graced recent editions, and it is something that SAFC have used more often than our scouting network in years past. Under Roy Keane, even before his tenure as manager, we were affectionately re-branded as ‘SundIreland’ due to the amount of Eire internationals in our ranks.
But thanks to one Keane signing, that began to change.
Dwight Yorke proved to be an inspired buy, adding a touch of class and composure to a midfield that had been outfought and out-thought in the Premier League the season before, and was struggling to come to terms with the frenetic tempo of the Championship. His suggestions to his manager on who to buy were equally effective. Fellow Trinidad and Tobago international Stern John brought another dimension to the Sunderland forward line, helping himself to some important goals along the way. Yorkie’s eye for a player went one better when Carlos Edwards dribbled his way from Luton and into the hearts of the Wearside faithful. Finally, we had the winger that we had been crying out for. And boy did he deliver that season. The goal at St. Mary’s, his strike at St. Andrews, both excellent in their own right yet eclipsed by the winner at home to Burnley.
There were a number of important players that season but for me, Carlos’ arrival impersonated his playing style. As a team, we set off, and we ran and ran, evading all challenges until reaching the goal- promotion.
Then came Dwight’s finest hour in his role as player-scout. Stern John- who had served his purpose once we were promoted- was added to £6m cash and we made a deal for Kenwyne Jones. Now, many didn’t know a great deal about the big striker and were willing to give Keane’s new signing a chance. They were right to do so, as Jones excelled in his first season at the Stadium of Light, prompting now infamous snippets of praise such as John Terry’s ‘Kenwyne was the hardest player I’ve played against this season’ claim.
We’ve flirted with France, too. Djibril Cisse consulted in Steed Malbranque before agreeing to join on loan. Lorik Cana confided in Cisse before his £5m move across the channel. Both Cana & Cisse enhanced our reputation in France and in doing so left the door ajar for further French recruits upon their departures.
Like the Irish contingent, the Trinidad boys have now departed, and we now have John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan, who many Sunderland fans cheered through Ghana’s World Cup Semi Final game with Uruguay after Mensah had spent the previous season on loan at the club. The pair represents our strongest defender and strongest attacker in the eyes of many fans, a clear indication of how far the club has come in recent years.
Where a team would usually rely on the word of a player to bring someone in that could ‘do a job’ in the short-term, we are asking for references from squad members on our top targets. As a result, we are reaping the rewards. Especially when a word in the ear from their compatriot precedes any bid we make for the player.
So I sign off by asking readers, where in the world do we go from here? Has Stephane Sessegnon got any mates in Benin?