El-Abd on Arca
Wycombe Wanderers captain Adam El-Abd recently skippered his side to a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light, with only a late Josh Maja goal rescuing a point for Sunderland.
The former Brighton man has been looking back at his career with the Daily Mail and says the best player he has ever faced was also during a league game at the Stadium of Light.
According to El-Abd, when he was just coming through the ranks at the South Coast club when he started at right-back and came up against Sunderland legend Julio Arca:
Again it is difficult to pick one and Carlos Tevez was one, but I always remember there was a lesson I received when I was 19 or 20 in my debut season for Brighton. I was playing right-back and we played Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Julio Arca was their left winger. He gave me a lesson that day. I thought I was fit enough and strong enough, but he was a senior pro at the time and I was only a young lad.
I walked off the pitch thinking: ‘I’ve been given a lesson today. I need to improve. I need to get fitter, I need to get stronger.’ It was an invaluable lesson for me.
There was nothing of him but he was so good on the ball. His technique and his fitness levels were ridiculous.
That was magnified because they kept the ball better than us. They were flying at the time, enjoying themselves playing fast, fluid football, while we were defending pretty much the whole game.
He liked to run with the ball and he pulled me into areas I wasn’t comfortable going into. I remember looking up at the clock.
We were eight minutes, 39 seconds into the game and he had run at me about four times already. I managed to slide the ball out for a corner, but I needed an oxygen mask. And there were only eight minutes gone.
Former boss of Smart disappointed by lack of Pompey move
Sam Smart has been on trial with Sunderland this week, with the young forward featuring in the under-23s 3-1 defeat by Middlesbrough on Monday evening.
The 20-year-old is on trial from Basingstoke Town but he previously played for Horndean and their manager Michael Birmingham says he is disappointed Sunderland’s League One promotion rivals Portsmouth haven’t taken a look at such a talented, hard working youngster who is from the local area:
Sam is a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and a desire to listen and learn.
He is unbelievably quick – I don’t think I have seen anyone quicker in my life.
He is the sort of player that every time he gets on the ball he excites you. The only two players who have got me up on my feet when they are on the ball are Sam and Alfie Rutherford at the Hawks.
He may not be very big but you shouldn’t have to be a 6ft 4in athlete to make it in the professional game.
It is great to see someone from grassroots football getting the chance.
It is a pity a Denmead lad is not getting the chance with his local Football League team. I am sure the Pompey fans would love to see a home-grown talent making it with them.
I can’t speak too highly of him as a player or as a character to have around.
Smart did initially leave Horndean to take up a scholarship at an American university but quickly returned home and once back at Horndean, he made a huge impact with his trickery constantly winning penalties for his team, something he carried into his trial where he was fouled but for Duncan Watmore to miss the resultant penalty:
That season Jack Maloney scored 19 goals and 18 of them were from the penalty spot. Sam must have won 17 of those penalties.
He had the ability to turn on the afterburners and lure defenders into fouls.
Smart is expected to return to the Basingstoke line-up to face King’s Lanley later today after missing their previous game against Hartley Witney due to his trial with Sunderland.
Will he come to Sunderland permanently? That much is not yet known - but since he impressed in his first appearance this week for the club, you can expect that they’ll take a further look at him before other professional sides come sniffing around him.
Ba on Lens revival
French midfielder El-Hadji Ba left Sunderland back in 2015 but the 25-year-old is already at his fourth club since leaving after spells with Charlton Athletic, Staebek, Sochaux and now Lens.
Ba’s career looks to be looking up though, with the midfielder making himself a vital cog for Lens and he says he joined the club as he wanted to push for a return to Ligue 1, an aim that looks achievable with the club sitting 4th in Ligue 2:
What attracted me here is already the club that is important in France. It’s a club that has no place in Ligue 2, everyone knows it. The staff, which is for me exceptional. Philippe Montanier is a very experienced coach.
I needed a project that could make me progress and that allows me to believe in a return to Ligue 1. And then, I knew Walid [Mesloub] and Jean-Louis [Leca] and the group seemed great.
Ba says he does feel pressure to get the club back to the top flight but he’s finally enjoying his football again after a few seasons where he felt nothing at all:
We feel it everyday. I’ll do my shopping, we’ll see someone and he’ll tell us he wants the club in Ligue 1. We hear it every day, the club, the fans and even our families.
But anyway, I tell myself every single week. I’m 25 years old, maybe it’s harder for young people. But I think it’s good to belong to such a club. I played in England, I lived fantastic atmospheres.
But Bollaert [Lens’ stadium], I’ll remember it all my life. I experienced seasons during which I felt almost nothing. A football career is short. Here, I am living things fully.