Peter Reid’s efforts to bring the right man at the right price to the Sunderland squad during the 1996-97 campaign were well known.
His long-running search for a forward was a central strand of the Premier Passions documentary and at a time when transfer fees had already started spiralling, he spoke many times during the season about his desire to get value for money when weighing up moves.
Searching high and low, Reid became notorious for being linked with or offering trials to all sorts of weird and wonderful names.
In December several outlets first started reporting that Senegalese international Mamadou Diallo was the latest player on the radar, and with no YouTube clips to rely on in those times, supporters had to make do with what they read in the papers.
25 years old at this point, Diallo was known to have made his international debut in 1994 and had already become well-travelled. After starting out at Port Autonome in his hometown of Dakar he had then moved to Switzerland and Morocco before arriving at Zeyinburnsuspor, the Turkish club Reid was now trying to do business with. The suggestion was that after initially being quoted £1 million for the services of the striker, he had haggled them down and was close to agreeing a fee of less than half that amount.
The Sunderland boss wanted to get a better look before committing, however, and so on this day in 1997 Diallo was named in the reserve side that took on Notts County. The game had been due to be held at New Ferens Park yet due to a frozen pitch in Durham it was moved to Roker Park at short notice, but despite a strong goalscoring record elsewhere the striker failed to catch the eye.
Managing Sunderland’s reserve team at this point was Pop Robson, who of course knew a thing or two about playing up front himself.
The side had topped Pontins League Division 1 in November and were expected to beat Notts, who had only recently appointed Sam Allardyce as first team manager after a spell working alongside Robson and Reid in an academy role on Wearside. As it was, the game finished 2-1 to the visitors and rather than talking about the impact of Diallo those in attendance were left wanting to see more of another new face.
Making his first appearance at Roker after what was a permanent deal, Jan Eriksson also featured in Robson’s side and his 35 yard screamer was a rare highpoint for Sunderland.
The goal wasn’t enough for the second string to get anything from the match, but it suggested there was more to come from this international at least. In the end though and despite his pedigree, the Swede would eventually follow Diallo out of the door with neither of them able to make a suitable impression on Reid.
Teammates for just a day, both Eriksson and Diallo both played for Tampa Bay Mutiny later in their careers. At 6ft 3in the latter was presumably seen as a replacement for the injured Niall Quinn, but with the switch to Sunderland scrapped he instead ended up signing for Lillestrom before making several other foreign moves.
Finishing his career with a very respectable record of a goal just over every two games for Senegal, he later returned to the international scene and played in the 2007 Beach Soccer World Cup in Brazil. Had things worked out differently 25 years ago today, however, it could have been by the beaches of Roker and Seaburn that Mamadou Diallo made his fortune.