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Dressing Them Down - Why I Can't Bring Myself To Name A Player Of The Month For October

Regular readers of the site will be familiar with our Player of The Month feature - we tot up all of our ratings, pick out the best-performing four and then ask for our followers on Twitter to vote for their Player Of The Month. However, yesterday afternoon when I was preparing for our usual feature, I just felt uneasy about running it.

Bar a couple of barely average individual showings in our games across October, it's pretty much impossible to select one player that has stood out above the rest.

So, rather than pretend that any of our players have done particularly well this last month, I'm choosing to take this time to reflect upon our performances and what we've seen in those games from certain individuals - in particular the workshy, unprofessional and 'just not good enough' among them.

And, if you want to find the living embodiment of unprofessionalism, look no further than a man who wore the captain's armband for us just over a week ago - and someone who, technically, should have been in the running for Player Of The Month after he was named our man of the match just weeks ago against West Ham at the London Stadium.

Lamine Kone was completely torn apart by Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football this week for his awful work rate in the game against Arsenal on Saturday and, whilst these public tear-downs done on Skysports can often be harsh and without rebuttal, the critique in this instance was almost certainly warranted.

Kone showed in the game against West Ham last week what he is capable of and he was most certainly our man of the match that day, but his showing against Arsenal was a remarkable contrast. Carragher carefully dissected footage of Kone purposely not running or looking interested in comparison to the performance that he put in against Everton at the end of last season, and the findings were not all that startling, having seen him to it on a number of occasions already in this campaign.

Kone is a character that I find difficult to work out. Having seen just what he is capable of when playing under Sam Allardyce in our last campaign, it's mind-boggling when you see how he has, at times, performed this season. Kone and his a commitment to Sunderland is a subject that has been danced around quite sensitively in recent months, and I'm not sure why.

Having shown promise from January to May this year after signing a long term deal with the club, Lamine and his agent - the infamous Mark Mackay - petulantly embarrassed themselves publicly, constantly pulling tricks in an attempt to use the club to get what they wanted.

First were the claims of broken promises on a new contract, and an unbelievable display of bellendery which sent the Sunderland fans into frenzy over misleading information that didn't quite tell the full story - Kone was pictured on Merseyside posing for photos with Everton fans, a stunt which occurred to the bewilderment of his manager.

The defender feigned injury before the Middlesbrough defeat and then, having travelled to the South coast ahead of the game at St Mary's with Southampton, Kone and his agent had a long drawn out argument on the day of the match with David Moyes who had to convince the Ivorian to play, only managing to do so ninety minutes before kick off.


What then followed were more rumours of his departure - the truth, however, was that Kone was never going to leave. David Moyes was not going to allow such an important defender to force a move away as it would give off all of the wrong messages to the supporters who were vehement in their opinion that Kone was one of our best players.

Kone was awarded his 'promised' new deal two weeks into September, and ever since I've struggled to warm to him in the way that I did when he thumped home his second against Everton in May.

His social media presence, whilst appearing to be fan-friendly and joyous, clearly couldn't be further from the truth. Kone was prepared to use Sunderland for his own gain and he won't have been the first, or the last, but it still doesn't make it any easier to digest.

Kone was rewarded with the captain's armband for the game against Southampton in the cup last week, and I have to admit that I was horrified. The person leading out our team made it abundantly clear just months beforehand that he didn't want to be here. The contract he signed isn't worth the paper that it's written on - it's merely there to further line his own pockets and to protect the club's interests when he inevitably leaves in the upcoming January transfer window.

Speaking of players that haven't performed since being awarded fat new contracts, I move on to another irritating human - Patrick Van Aanholt.

Van Aanholt often plays like a man who is very aware that, with the club having failed to sign another left back this summer, his position in the team is barely under threat and that irrespective of form he's guaranteed to be on the pitch each week.

Patrick is obviously very talented and he's shown on many occasions how capable he is but it's almost as though he, like Kone, just turns it on when he wants to. He has days where he looks like he can't be arsed to defend and we've seen in umpteen times - he'll cause genuine issues going forward against our opponents but then he'll inevitably fall short when defending and we'll concede a weak, avoidable goal. It's happened too many times for me to list all of the examples.

Sam Allardyce placed him with the U23s around this time last year in order to get the message across that Van Aanholt wasn't untouchable and what we received was a tremendous backlash and he was consistently brilliant for the rest of the season. He was rewarded with - you guessed it - a shiny new contract in the summer, and ever since hasn't quite hit the heights that he did last season on a more regular basis.

Patrick is no longer a child. He's 26 years old and is now one of our longest serving players. He has a lot to answer for, and we can't keep treating him like a youth player who has time to learn.

He has to start taking ownership for his own mistakes and concentrating on doing what is first and foremost, his job - defending.

He's not the only one either - there are other more experienced players who just aren't cutting it yet are avoiding any blame.

Jack Rodwell and Steven Pienaar are just not good enough for this level - certainly not as starters in the centre of midfield each week, anyway.

It might be an old cliché, but if Rodwell was a race horse he'd have been shot by now. What a waste of talent - and sadly it is through no fault of his own, really, other than being susceptible to injuries as a youngster. He doesn't really stand out as being hopelessly terrible but he's often anonymous in games, unacceptable for a man that cost us a large sum of money and has played for England.

Steven Pienaar has been a left midfielder for the vast majority of his career, so quite how he's ended up playing Premier League football in the middle for us at the ripe age of 34 is frightening. He's like a very poor version of Jordi Gomez - and even he was dreadful.

Our younger players are gaining nothing from the amount of exposure they are receiving either, and that's mainly due to the amount of injuries we have. Jordan Pickford, Duncan Watmore, Javi Manquillo and Dider Ndong are patently not bad footballers but having been exposed to playing week in, week out on a regular basis this season it would be fair to suggest that it could be hindering their progress. The sooner we have more experienced players back from injury, the better - they could all do with a spell out of the limelight.

The manager has taken plenty of blame and criticism for the shoddy way that we have performed so far this season but it's about time the players took some ownership too and manned up. Only they can pick themselves up now and start winning games.

They might not want to be there but for as long as they have the privilege to be wearing that red and white shirt the least that we expect is that they give us their all.

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