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Cult Heroes: Djibril Cisse, Sunderland's Number Nine!

Dishing out praise where it's due...
Dishing out praise where it's due...

Fear not intrepid traveller of the Interwebs, Cult Heroes has today returned to Roker Report, but with a twist. Instead of just a random selection from the annals of SAFC's Cult Hero history plucked from the deepest and darkest corners of my poor little brain, you will instead be treated to a great that has represented not just The Black Cats but their upcoming opposition!

I know, genius eh!?

So with Sunderland making the cross country trip to Anfield, idiot rioters allowing, there are a number of different avenues we could have taken. Phil Babb? Jason McAteer? Stephen Wright? Bolo? ...Anthony Le Tallec?

This week's man of the moment may only have been on Wearside for a short loan spell but in that brief period managed to win our hearts.

Ladies and Gentleman... Djibril Cisse!

Gerard Houllier had been a long time admirer of the French forward who had an impeccable record during his time with Auxerre, scoring 70 goals in 128 appearances. This was enough to convince the Liverpool gaffer to splash out £14m on the flamboyant striker in 2004 after the Merseyside club had courted their man for over a year.

Djib's Liverpool career had barely got started before disaster struck and the forwards career itself hung in the balance. Following a good start to his Liverpool career Cisse travelled with his team mates for what was to be the usual tough and physical game that you expect when facing Blackburn at Ewood Park. The first half was drawing to a close when under pressure from Blackburn defender Jay McEveley, Cisse's trailing leg got caught in the turf...

We have all seen the horrific photos that followed the innocuous challenge and if it had not been for the swift action of the medical staff that night Cisse may have even lost his leg.

However, in nothing short of a miracle, Cisse returned towards the end of that very season, notched both goals in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on the last day of the season before converting a penalty in the shootout win over AC Milan in the Champions League Final. Nothing short of a mindblowing turn around in the Frenchman's fortunes.

Following a season of discontent under new manager Rafael Benitez and another broken leg, the enigmatic striker was on his way to Marseille, initially on loan.

Cisse's return to English football came when Roy Keane brought the striker to Wearside in the summer of 2008. Despite the obvious concerns over his fitness, I was delighted to see the talismatic man arrive on the scene and like Keane I was hopeful SAFC could make the deal permanent.

Djib made an instant impact scoring the winner at White Hart Lane in a 2-1 win, but really wrote his name into the history books with his goal in the Wear/Tyne derby. The heavily tattooed and mohican sporting striker caught the imagination of the Sunderland fans, who believed, should the deal be made permanent could act as the perfect foil for his laid back strike partner at the time, Kenwyne Jones.

"I have always fallen in love with who I play for. At Liverpool, I loved the crowd and the people very quickly, and it was the same at Marseille.

Sunderland was a bit different - maybe because I only came on loan - but I quickly grew to love the club.

I love the fans. They are really nice with me, and so the least I can do is show them the same respect and give 100% on the pitch."

However it was not to be. Roy Keane left and Cisse was not far behind, the club unable, or unwilling depending on your opinion, to put up a further £8m, on top of a reported £2m that had already been paid for the loan spell to make the deal permanent.

My personal favourite favourite Cisse moment came during the derby, when the two teams were emerging from the tunnel before kickoff. Some players were clearly in awe of the atmosphere but who strode out of the tunnel, chest puffed out and ready for battle? Djibril Cisse, Sunderland's Number Nine. The passionate and flamboyant star stole my heart during his brief time at the Stadium of Light and for that, I salute you.

Editors Note: 'Heroes' is merely decorative. We're not saying Cisse and the likes are up there with Shack or Hurley, but we're dishing out praise to someone who we feel did a good job at the time. Don't be so literal!

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