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Tales from the Stands: God took Messi & Pele... Reunion with Sunderland hero Stephane Sessegnon

Sunderland supporter Niall Bromley now lives in the South of France, and when the chance to watch an old hero just around the corner arose, he couldn’t bare to pass up the opportunity.

I’m sure if God did indeed mix Messi with Pele he probably wouldn’t have churned out Stephane Sessegnon, but in the time he spent at Sunderland - a club traditionally starved of creative flair players - it sometimes felt that way when watching him weave his way past defenders with his unique brand of silky skill.

Goals against Swansea, the one at St James’ Park and let’s not forgot the last gasp winner at the Riverside in the FA Cup - Sessegnon had the amazing ability to float past players without making it look difficult.

For a period under Martin O’Neill it really looked like Sessegnon was the only option we had going forward - his pace, directness and power made for some edge of the seat moments when he had the ball.

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Sunderland supporters certainly took to him as a hero, but after not seeing eye to eye with then-manager Paolo Di Canio he left us in a £6m deal to join Steve Clarke’s West Brom - ironically scoring against us on his debut for the Baggies.

Since his contract expired in 2016 he spent time at Montpellier in the south of France, before signing for Turkish side Gençlerbirliği in January.

But, before he left, I took it upon myself to see what he’s up to now - especially since I live in Montpellier currently.

I popped along to watch La Paillade take on Lyon at their ground, Stade de la Mosson - and straight away it became apparently that he was as loved by the French supporters as he was when he wore the red and white of Sunderland.

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Whilst he was on the pitch he just looked like the old sess, strong and skillful, maybe tried a bit too much - but then again it was a friendly. He is now of course seven years older than he was when we first signed him, he wasn’t as athletic, and rarely ventured past the midfield but it was clear that any chance that he got to go forward he would take.

There were Montpellier shirts with his name on everywhere, scarves with his face on that could be purchased in the mobile store outside the stadium, whilst chants of his name when he was warming up echoed around the ground.

Sessegnon is a captivating footballer, the like of which we don’t often see play for Sunderland. Let’s not re-write history - Sess was often as frustrating as he was glorious, and there’s a very good reason he ended up at a club like ours, but until time passes by and you take a step back, you probably don’t truly appreciate what you once had until it’s gone.

There’s a reason why the fanbase of every club he’s ever been at hold fond overriding memories of him - he’s got a unique skill-set, the type that can get you up out of your seat, and is worth paying the price of a ticket for. Whether in the North of England or the South of France, Sessegnon’s ability with the ball at his feet could be often mesmerising - the type of footballer that young children attempt to imitate in their back gardens when they get home after watching him play.

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A French supporter sitting next to me at the game said “he’s got all the ability in the world, but he’s very lazy, and when he does have the ball he always looks to score the spectacular, instead of maybe making just a simple pass” - thoughts that can probably be shared by a lot of Sunderland fans - myself included - when we had him, that maybe with a bit of a better attitude, Sess could have went on to play at the next level.

Stephané is a player that probably will only be remembered for the fact he didn’t get to the level his ability deserved, but as a Sunderland fan he gave us some phenomenal moments that I’ll treasure forever.

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