I followed this week’s U23 game at home to Leicester with great interest because Lamine Kone was making his return to the pitch following a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury. His performance, I thought, would be a good indicator as to where the brutish defender’s heart currently resides, and whether there might be any chance of seeing him eventually return to Chris Coleman’s starting line-up.
Ultimately, the Young Lads ran out two goal winners, and Kone came through the match unscathed having played well, by all accounts.
Chris Coleman, Kit Symons, and Robbie Stockdale were all in attendance as they cast their watchful eyes over Kone and his fellow teammates, and I wonder just what thoughts and observations funneled through their minds as they looked on from afar.
As Coleman has noted recently to the local press, both Kone and Ndong will likely leave the club in the future, yet he hoped they would be professional enough to perform to their full potential should they be called on in the meanwhile:
They [Kone & Ndong] will dictate that [whether they play]. In terms of their application, body language and their intent - they will dictate that.
In the long-term their futures are elsewhere but if short-term they are here between now and the end of the season, then it will depend on their mentality, whether they want to be part of it or they don’t.
That will be down to them really.
As noted our match report, Kone was a real presence against Leicester in his first game back since injury as he controlled the Sunderland defence with stout determination:
Lamine Kone - 8/10: Dealt with everything with relative ease. He was, quite literally, head and shoulders above the opposition today.
However, the big question that remains to be answered is whether Kone will be utilized by Coleman as we continue on our quest to avoid successive relegations?
With the purse strings firmly sealed, Coleman will have to be shrewd ahead of the window’s closure next week, and in Kone he finds himself in possession of a colossus who just might be able to aid his cause.
No need for new wages and loan fees - Kone represents a sound solution to our paper-thin defensive depth. But how would fans feel about the Côte d’Ivoire international taking to the field once more?
The Sunderland Echo polled their readers yesterday, and 56% of those who responded were steadfast in their belief that they did not want to see the former Lorient man back in the starting line-up.
It’s easy to see why Kone has divided opinion as the defender, who can compete with any forward on his day, has been erratic since the departure of Sam Allardyce as his agent has sought improved deals and moves away from Wearside - all to the detriment of his player.
But will Coleman have a choice as to whether he plays Kone if no offer comes in during this window?
Should Coleman’s defence take another blow to its fitness then perhaps the return of Kone could be inevitable.
With Marc Wilson struggling, and an incredibly worrying dependence on the ageing John O’Shea to lead the back line, perhaps Lamine Kone could provide a level of depth and quality we might perhaps have lacked for much of this campaign.
Will Kone oust any of the current triumvirate guarding the Sunderland goal? It’s unlikely considering the fact that he doesn’t seem to be the most eloquent of English speakers - a worrying weakness if paired alongside two younger defenders who would need to be marshaled by a senior pro.
That being said, things seem to be changing under Chris Coleman as highlighted by the potential transfer of Jack Rodwell. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Kone could be given a second chance to impress under Coleman’s tenure.
Will Coleman be able to coax the kind of performances out of Kone that made him an instant hero among the fans, or will he be keen to free up wages and potential funds should he find an adequate suitor interested in acquiring the robust defender’s services?
Either way, we might not yet have quite seen the last of Lamine Kone, but whether he returns to the side or is sold on is as of yet anyone’s guess.
What would you do?
What would you do with Lamine Kone?
This poll is closed
Keep him at the club.