Lamine Kone May Be Unavailable From 1st January, Will We See Him Again?
The Daily Star have reported that the Ivory Coast have arranged a training camp on January 2nd to assemble their players two weeks before the Africa Cup of Nations begins.
The problem with that - Sunderland have a game that day - at home to Liverpool, and the club will be expected to release Lamine Kone to attend the gathering in Paris.
Of course, the other factor to consider - it actually means we may never see Lamine Kone again following the fixture against Burnley on 31st December. Following the training camp, Ivory Coast players will travel to Abu Dhabi on 11th January for a friendly against Uganda.
Already Sunderland will be missing those players selected to take part in the tournament for the home game against Stoke on 14th January and three subsequent games against West Brom, Tottenham and Crystal Palace.
There is a small matter of the FA Cup Third Round to sandwich in during early January following the New Years Eve Burnley match, but Kone may not feature in that game depending on who is picked out of the hat for Sunderland to face in the draw tonight.
And Kone has continued to be strongly linked with a move away in the upcoming transfer window. If David Moyes and Sunderland were keen to keep the Ivorian defender in the summer, the harsh reality of a January devoid of funds has led most to concede that a sale to fund a minor rebuild may be the only practical solution.
But, David Moyes is cannier than that. And if Kone was somewhere near to looking like the player he was last season on Saturday, the Sunderland manager has been quick to heap praise on his centre-half and suggest he is integral to the team.
In quotes featured in today's Sunderland Echo, Moyes says he believes Lamine Kone has turned the corner this season following some earlier shaky performances. On the topic of Kone and his centre-half colleague, Papy Djilobodji, Moyes said:
I think Lamine has a lot of qualities going for him, his positional play has got better and Papy, you can see, is improving as well. Papy has improved too.
Kone and Djolobodji were very good on Saturday and it was the Ivorian who was tasked with nullifying last season's hotshot, Jamie Vardy. Aside from some occasional decent movement from the England striker, Sunderland's centre-half pairing kept him and his Leicester colleague, Islam Slimani, quiet.
The only negative came as a result of Leicester's goal when Kone and Djilobodji conspired to lose Shinji Okazaki in the six-yard box.
But more than just boosting a player's reputation, the surest way to bump his price up, less than three weeks before the transfer window opens, is to claim he is essential to your short, medium and long-term plans. So, Moyes has said Lamine Kone is crucial to Sunderland's hopes of staying up this season. In the Northern Echo he says:
We need him because if we are going to have any chance we need our centre-halves to play well, all of them are going to be needed.
With supposed interest from West Ham, Everton and Southampton, it's likely David Moyes and Chief Executive, Martin Bain, have already discussed the Lamine Kone situation and firstly, made a decision over whether to sell, and secondly, set the price at which they would accept an offer.
Expect to see continued talk bigging Lamine Kone up in the next few weeks as Sunderland attempt to egg his suitors into a bidding war.
Wolverhampton Wanderers - Checkatrade Preview
Interest in the Checkatrade Trophy moves up a gear tonight as Sunderland enter the knock-out stage with a trip to Wolves.
Kick-off is at 7pm and you can follow the match with coverage on BBC Radio Newcastle or on safc.com.
With December fixtures about to start coming thick and fast - Sunderland have five Premier League games in three weeks starting this Saturday with the trip to Swansea - few senior members of the first team are likely to feature.
A few clubs may be in attendance to keep tabs on some of Sunderland's youngsters, most notably George Honeyman who has already attracted interest from the Championship.
Wolves' Under-23 side is managed by former Newcastle midfielder, Scott Sellars. The 51-year-old is best remembered for scoring the winning goal against us in a crucial derby game in the 1992-93 season.
My abiding memory of that afternoon is getting soaked through in the Leazes End during a miserable afternoon. Terry Butcher had selected himself at centre-half in his player-manager role and defeat all but consigned us to relegation from Division One. Sunderland only stayed up on the last day of the season by virtue of Brentford and Cambridge failing to win and sending themselves down in our place.