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Forgotten Black Cats: Talal El-Karkouri

Remember him?

Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

He's a player who has been well schooled in France and has become a regular in the PSG team this season. He's also gained experience of the Uefa Cup during his three-year stay. He's strong in the air and obviously having played in France has good technical ability. He will hopefully make a very useful addition to our squad between now and the end of the season.

Brought in on the final day of the transfer window, El-Karkouri was signing by Sergeant Wilko on a 6-month-loan as our defence had started going down like flies days after one of the most dour home games in our history, as we lost to a sole James Beattie goal on a cold winter night against Southampton to cement our place at the bottom of the league.

The centre back came with a good pedigree. At 26, he had been a regular in the Paris Saint Germain team alongside a young future Sunderland captain in Lorik Cana, now Tottenham Manager Mauricio Potchettino and Gabriel Heinze, who would soon join Manchester United and win their player of the year trophy to boot. However with Paris St. Germain struggling domestically, Luis Fernandez allowed us to take him on loan with a view to a permanent move.

He was rewarded with an immediate start in the team away at Tottenham Hotspur after missing the previous weekend’s now infamous 1-3 defeat to Charlton. Despite the weekend defeat, we actually went into Talal’s debut on the back of a morale boosting FA Cup win over Blackburn Rovers in midweek, as we overcome them 3-0 on penalties after playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the SOL. Normal service was resumed though as the Wilkinson era began drawing to it’s inevitable conclusion, going down 4-1 despite a Kevin Phillips equaliser early in the second half. Despite the obvious woes of the team, Karkouri performed at a level deemed good enough to keep Phil Babb (shudder) out of the team and kept his place in central defence for the defeats to Middlesbrough and Fulham. Howard and Steve Cotterill were relieved of their duties after only five months in charge, with Sunderland rooted to the bottom of the league on 19 points - a tally that we would never add to, despite the appointment of Mick McCarthy.

The club was in total disarray as we sleepwalked to a record low points total and began a run of what would become 17 straight league defeats. The January signings of El-Karkouri and Mart Poom had made no difference to our plight, however the Moroccan continued to hold down his place at centre half for the opening games of Big Mick’s reign. This included probably our only bright spot of that torrid run, as we ran a star studded Chelsea side close, narrowly losing to an exquisite Carlton Cole winner minutes from time. He would eventually be dropped from the side though, as our relegation was mathematically rubber stamped in defeat at Birmingham City’s St. Andrews. With the big name players of Phillips, Sorensen and McCann already touted to move once the summer came, the former Republic of Ireland Manager opted to use players he could foresee being in his starting line-up for the following seasons, whilst testing out the younger legs of Richie Ryan and Chris Black in the meaningless remaining games. With niggling injuries causing him to miss out on match day squad, and McCarthy opting to go with player of the year Jody Craddock and Jocky Bjorklund at the back, he wouldn’t even manage a place on the bench till season end.

As expected the big names of Kevin Phillips, Thomas Sorensen and Tore Andre Flo left for pastures new and with so many out goings, the departure of Talal El-Karkouri went largely unnoticed. Much like Jack Rodwell, he left with a record of not only never winning a game when he started for the Lads. Despite his and our horror end to the season however, he did enough to win himself a move to fellow Premier League team Charlton, where he was signed for a small fee of £1m by Alan Curbishley. He noted that he had turned down moves to Everton and Feyenoord in favour of a move to the Valley as he believed they were "good enough for the Champions League" whilst he also commented that he could only leave a club like Paris St. Germain for a "big, big club". Yeah.

However, he excelled at Charlton as he notched up 78 appearances between 2004-2007, scoring a total of 8 goals, winning their goal of the season award along the way. His career there would finish in controversy though as he was accused of simulation by Reading Manager Steve Coppell, falling like he’d been shot after a touching of heads with Leroy Lita.

He would later move into Qatar, where he finished his career at Qatar SC and Umm-Salal.

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