Stephane Sessegnon's A Tale Of Two Cities

Mike Hewitt

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...

It was the best of times...

If there was a highlights reel of the past five seasons or so as a Sunderland fan, Stephane Sessegnon would make up about 75% of such video with some of his quite outstanding play. Goals like the ones at home to Swansea City and away at Fulham were every bit as good and as important as his opener in the recent 3-0 win at Newcastle United.

...It was the worst of times.

In his two appearances this season he was abysmal. Completely uninterested in doing anything for himself and even less for his teammates. Sadly, this wasn't an uncommon trait or something done merely to push through a move to another side. All too often Sessegnon simply didn't pass muster and if things weren't going his way he sacked the game off after half an hour or so, and hence the never-ending undercurrent of unspoken discontent with him from Sunderland fans.

It was the age of wisdom...

Upon arrival he was hailed as a saviour, and a significant coup for Sunderland. A player who cost the famous Paris St. Germain near enough £10m to acquire from Le Mans. A player with all the tricks in the book as we intently studied YouTube videos to work out what we'd bought. He was the solution to our creative problems no doubt. We were all experts or so it felt on that front.

...It was the age of foolishness.

However what we probably overlooked was his falling out with Antoine Kombouare, resulting in him going on strike to force a move away from the club. He blamed Kombouare for calling him out in an interview. The manager signalled him out as the type who wasn't a team player.

The latter perhaps was true as recently Paolo Di Canio declared him to be a player who didn't care about anyone or anything other than himself.

Looks very much as though history repeat itself as we were all made to look fools for making a massive oversight when it comes to his character for all his occasional glimpses of genuine world-class ability.

It was the epoch of belief...

Taking things upon himself to change games wasn't really in Sessegnon's mantra, but he provided a hell of a lot of hope that he'd do that from time to time. Perhaps none more so than in one of his early appearances for us when he truly came to light as a lone forward against Wigan Athletic.

Jordan Henderson takes a lot of plaudits for that game, but with both Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck out, all hopes for any forward play rested on the diminutive shoulders of Sess. He more than stepped up to the plate in winning and scoring a penalty as well as setting up Henderson for a fourth and deserved goal.

...It was the epoch of incredulity.

So what was it that left us so often in a state of disbelief, or certainly never fully able to believe that this is what he could be for us? A player on whom we could rely. Similarly three different managers all put their belief in him, but in numerous positions. Never fully believing he could do one thing so well.

He was a winger, and quite a good one. He was a striker, and a reasonable one. He was a support striker, a playmaker.

I've often found myself wondering about this exact point. Obviously too good to leave out of the team, but where to put him was all too often a problem. Up front nobody wanted to believe he was a fifteen goal a season striker. In midfield he lacked the work-ethic and discipline to work for the team and hold position.

And so he slumped into a no-mans-land of nothingness. By which I don't mean his recent move to the Midlands despite how apt that may be. I mean on the pitch. We put him out there hoping for the best, but never really believing that week in, week out he was up to the task.

It was the season of light...

That season in particular being the 2011-12 season. His first full season for the club, and statistically the most successful for him on a personal level with career highs for goals and assists.

Goals ranging in importance and spectacularness. Last minute points winners against Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers were coupled with magnificence against Swansea City and Wigan Athletic.

It was also the season in which he was continually linked with moves away, with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur both linked with moves in excess of £20m for him.

...It was the season of darkness.

Albeit for only two games, the two in which he appeared this season ranked among the worst individual performances I've seen in a Sunderland shirt, and there were plenty more dark occasions too.

Almost every close season was a worry about his future. A very private man and not one to talk to the press with any regularity, people wondered about his state of mind. Good followed bad, light followed dark, and all feeling remained beneath his smoldering face.

Usually we found light at the end of such darkness, however that wasn't to last forever before he eventually this summer went for a spot of, what we called on our now disposed of podcast, "Gyanning".

It was the spring of hope...

And despite all the above, in what was possibly the last chance saloon under Paolo Di Canio, for best part of two months he was magnificent, with a highlight being the opening goal at the then Sports Direct Arena.

April and May showed that maybe it was all the fault of Martin O'Neill and his consistent dourness. The vivacious and outspoken Di Canio seemed to be able to fire Sessegnon into life. He seemed to enjoy it too as photo's appeared on social networks and forums of him doing the "3-0" hand gesture with teammates.

It might have took a while to get there, but perhaps he had finally got his act together and was prepared to knuckle down and be the superstar we wanted, rather than just a good player in a sea of mediocrity.

...It was the winter of despair.

Ok, so not quite the winter in the literal sense, but as August turned into September and the nights drew closer along with the cold winds relentlessly hitting the North East it might as well have been.

To top it all off there was plenty of despair provided by the fact Sessegnon had taken it upon himself to move to fellow early-season stragglers West Bromwich Albion.

Do we blame Di Canio? Do we blame the more senior figures for allowing this to happen? Fingers have been pointed everywhere but really the buck has to stop with Sessegnon himself.

As we've said. Three managers, numerous positions, an ever changing supporting cast around him and nobody could get the best from him. Dare I say, maybe he wasn't all that?

Lucrative moves to Tianjian or El Jaish we could just about have stomached. We've been burned by such moves before, and Sess wasn't the first, and likely won't be the last. West Brom came as a huge surprise, but maybe this his level? Lower top-flight.

Rightly or wrongly we sold him, and plenty of despair filled the air of SR5.

Charles Dickens' A Tale Of Two Cities opening certainly goes a long way to summing up Stephane Sessegnon's time on Wearside. Each line akin to moments which the West African Wizard, The Dumbledore of Dahomey, The Conjourer of Cotonou -- whatever you want to call him gave to us and what we felt during his three and a half years.

Bad followed good. Dark followed light and despair followed hope. When it comes to Sess though, it most certainlywas the best of times and the worst of times.

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