Murder case looks at Ndong deal
Sunderland’s record signing Didier Ndong will already go down as one of the worst signings the club has ever made.
He had been brought to the club by David Moyes for a fee of around £13.6m in August 2016, signing a five-year deal. That deal only last two years however before he was sacked by Stewart Donald for failing to turn up to pre-season training following the club’s relegation to League One.
Typically of Sunderland, that does not appear to be the end of the matter as reports in L’Equipe have linked the club’s signing of Ndong with a double killing just ‘a stone’s thrown from the Champs-Elysées’.
Sophiane Hamil was a convicted bank robber who had aspirations of being a football agent before he and a friend were found shot to death in October 2018.
The criminal investigation led the authorities to football agent Jonathan Chiche, who had met Hamil a few months prior to show the victim the ropes of being an agent, with the hopes of bringing him on board as an intermediary, with Chiche saying to authorities:
Sophiane had become a friend. We saw each other often, yet we only spent one evening together.
That led the authorities to look at a dispute between Chiche and his associate Grégory Gélabert against two intermediaries over the transfer of Dider Ndong to Sunderland.
Cliche was displeased as he believed he was entitled to €1.8m commission from the transfer and claimed death threats had been made as a result. Although that claim had been dismissed.
Hamil, the victim, was said by police to have played a “dissuasive” role in the transfer, being more of a henchman than an intermediary of a football agent, and being mainly used to apply pressure.
The investigation is ongoing.
Piper on his descent into depression
Former Sunderland winger Matt Piper has recently released his autobiography Out of the Darkness, where he discusses his football career and the personal issues that arose following the end of his career.
Piper was forced to retire early while at Sunderland due to persistent knee injuries, leading to the player to slip into depression and, in an excerpt of his book in The Set Pieces, the 39-year-old explained how that first started at the Academy of Light:
The first incident was at Sunderland when I had a panic attack in the pool, I’d never had a panic attack in my life or anything like that. I look back on that now and it was the start of depression.
A lot of people who are depressed don’t know they’re depressed at the time. They think ‘I’m a bit under the weather’ or have things on their mind. If you went to see someone, you’d be classed as clinically depressed. And I was at Sunderland. It was injury after injury, missing games after signing for the clubs and it went downhill from there.
It was injury after injury for another three or four years in a row and having that exhilarating moment when the surgeon said, ‘I think you need to call it a day’. People think that was one of the saddest days of my life, but it was one of the best. I was thinking ‘thank god that’s all over and now I can go out and do something with my life where I’m not so down all the time, I’m not always thinking about injuries, or feeling the pressure of being a professional footballer’.
McNamee on Henderson
Academy product Jordan Henderson is currently Liverpool captain, Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year and has been a Premier League, European and World while with Liverpool.
Henderson is also a regular for England and the BBC have taken a look back at the midfielder’s career, taking time to talk to Ged McNamee who was Academy Director during Henderson’s time with Sunderland.
McNamee revealed that Henderson had been close to being released as a 16-year-old due to doubts over his physical capability:
When we were making decisions on players at 16 there were big question marks about him.
The medical department did some tests and the consensus was that he was going to grow but he was the last one through the door. We spoke to the family and it was quite an emotional meeting because there was a lot of pressure taken off their shoulders, but he flourished once his body settled.
McNamee went on to say that working with the then Sunderland manager Roy Keane at such a young age only helped the young Henderson:
He had the drive to be a player and the manager Roy Keane saw something in him that he liked.
After a reserve game that had gone badly, Roy asked Jordan and a few other lads if they thought they could play in the first team and when Jordan said ‘yes’ it showed him he had a bit of bottle about him.
When he was called over to train he would quite often play in matches alongside Roy in central midfield. So as a 16- and 17-year-old he would have someone of that stature and quality talking to him, coaching him and telling him what he needed to do.
The manager was on at him all the time but I think it drove him on to improve and want more.