So, Amad Diallo. What did Rangers fans expect from him when he arrived, and did he deliver on those expectations?
It is always hard (and unfair) to not get excited by a player who is attached to a large transfer fee.
Manchester United paid £19m for the Ivorian which (especially in Scottish transfer terms) is a huge amount of money. Add to that the fact he plays in one of those traditional ‘exciting’ forward areas and we expected flair, drive and impact. Whilst he undoubtedly has talent it wasn’t on show enough for Rangers, he didn’t deliver on what we hoped.
Having scored on his debut against Ross County, he went on to score a total of 3 goals in 10 league appearances for the Gers. Do you see this as a good return, or a sign of unfulfilled potential in his loan spell with you?
Very much unfulfilled potential. He wasn’t able in any sense to break into the first team or indeed cement a starting place. Quite frankly he fell out of the entire picture for a while and spent a lot of time on the bench as an unused substitute.
The goals you mention came against very small provincial clubs (not to demean them) in Ross County and Dundee United.
Given the chances Rangers created and team he was playing in, I would have expected more (as did the management given his limited playing time).
Diallo looks to be a player who can play across the forward line. Did he predominantly play in one position for Rangers? And what do you think his best position is?
I agree he has some flexibility across the forward spaces, we tried him through the middle but predominantly as a right-winger. I personally think he looked more dangerous in a central role but he needs to play alongside someone. I suspect he’ll continue on as a winger who uses his pace in behind or drifts inside.
What were Diallo’s biggest strengths, and what does he need to work on to improve into a player who might one day break into Manchester United’s starting eleven?
There is lots to improve, work ethic, final ball and strength/stamina. As mentioned, he has talent, can play a nice final ball and gets into good positions but you’d need to see significant improvement for him to be a regular Premiership starter.
He is young though and still learning the game.
Rangers and Sunderland are both massive clubs, both with expectant fanbases. Do you think Diallo thrived on this at Ibrox?
I’m not sure he did, Ibrox is unrivalled in terms of atmosphere (especially at European games) but also relatively unforgiving if you aren’t able to fill the jersey. I’d suggest he found it rather tough but that is one of the elements of loaning players to big clubs with expectant fans, players need to learn to deal with that side of the game mentally and concentrate on their performances. There is a huge difference playing in front of Rangers or Sunderland fans versus the sanitised ‘atmospheres’ of the Premiership.
Overall, do you think Amad Diallo is ready to play a regular, useful part in an aspirant Championship side like Sunderland?
Long answer is I think he’ll contribute but he may be a frustrating and divisive figure and the fans will need to accept that (as will he if he can’t break into the team immediately). Short answer would be no.