Last night I popped along to the Eppleton Colliery Welfare ground to take in some under 21's football, and upon arriving I was surprised to see Emmanuel Eboue's name on the team sheet and in Sunderland's starting line up for the game against Leicester City.
I'm not sure why it surprised me, because I was fully aware that Eboue was on trial with the club, but it was interesting to see him feature. The Ivory Coast international fell out of favour at his last club - Turkish side Galatasaray - and hasn't played a great deal of football in the last eighteen months, so whilst I wasn't expecting him to stand out a mile as a performer, I was intrigued as to whether he'd get through the full ninety minutes with relative ease.
Sam Allardyce and Paul Bracewell took in the game and sat just below the press area, and though they were primarily there to see how Eboue fared it would have been wise for the other Sunderland players taking part to significantly up there game in order to give the Sunderland manager something to think about.
Eboue started the game slowly - in fact, it was around five minutes until he took a touch, sending the ball long down the right hand side and completely overhitting his pass, ending up at the feet of the Leicester goalkeeper. His involvement throughout the first half was limited - having been winded after a heavy fall early doors he seemed to struggle when in possession of the ball, often losing it, and rarely venturing forward. In the opening half an hour I counted just one completed pass from the former Arsenal man. Not great.
Just five minutes later he was pulled back for taking a foul throw, something which drew laughs from the crowd. I know he's not played in a while, but come on!
That said it wasn't a particularly enthralling game and it's fair to say Eboue wasn't the only player that was poor in the opening period. With him it's understandable that there would be signs of rustiness, and that's exactly what we saw.
Eboue seemed to slightly improve at the beginning of the second half. He was encouraged to venture forward more and join in with the attacks down the right hand side. On the hour mark he muscled his way past the Leicester City left full back and marauded into the box, teeing up an opportunity which eventually came to Rees Greenwood, who couldn't direct his shot at goal and saw his volley bounce wide.
Beyond that, his contributions were nil. Luckily for him, Sam Allardyce had seen enough and left the game early, missing the countless times that Eboue seemed to over hit passes to his team mates, occasionally seeing the ball go out of play.
Sunderland went on to lose the game through a late penalty - perhaps Leicester's only real chance of the game - and it was indicative of how Sunderland performed overall. It was an awful match in poor conditions and although Eboue was playing with aim of impressing Sam Allardyce, I'd be very surprised if anything comes of it should Sam make a decision on his future.
The U21s have another game on Monday evening against Everton at the Stadium of Light, and Sam may well choose to give Eboue another opportunity to prove himself. Fitness-wise, he seemed to get through the ninety minutes against a fairly energetic Leicester outfit with ease. He looked in decent shape and though he's never been blessed with great pace, he didn't look particularly slow.
Lets wait and see if anything comes of it - my gut feeling though is that perhaps nothing will. DeAndre Yedlin and Billy Jones are fit and available for selection, meaning any deal for Eboue until the end of the season would likely mean he'd rarely - if ever - play as we head towards an incredibly difficult end to this season's Premier League.