It was announced in the media this week that Amad Diallo has won an award, namely the “PFA Fans’ Player of the Month” for the EFL Championship, for his performances across the calendar month of December 2022.
This is a fantastic achievement for the 20-year-old diminutive winger from the Ivory Coast, who has been on loan to The Lads from Manchester United since the start of the season.
Even though he was competing for this award alongside some incredible talent across our division, including names such as our own Ross Stewart and strong performers like Akpom from Boro, Gyokeres from Coventry, and both McAtee and Ndiaye from Sheffield United, he is for me in a class of his own in this league.
The main reason for the joy I have for him is more about how much the lad has come on across the course of the season than anything else.
Amad wasn’t even in the squad for Tony Mowbray’s first game when we defeated Rotherham 3-0, showing a team who came up out of league one ahead of us that we do not intend to make this anything other than a solid first season away from that level.
He didn’t actually get his first full 90 minutes for Sunderland until the very odd 4-2 loss at home to Burnley in mid-October. This was a game in which he opened the scoring in the first half, helping the lads to the 2-0 half time lead. Unfortunately, that lead was an advantage that they ultimately threw away by letting in four goals in during the second period, which to be fair was through some cracking play by Burnley too.
Amad established himself in the team from that point on despite that loss however, playing the full 90 minutes in the following three games (a draw and a win both away, against Luton and Huddersfield respectively, followed by the 1-0 home loss to Cardiff). But when it came to December, he was nothing short of immense.
Right at the start of the festive month, Amad scored our opening goal in the second half against Millwall, setting us off towards our comfortable but slightly flattering 3-0 win at home. Despite us not winning the follow up game against West Brom, he once again made his mark when he put us in front from the penalty spot, with a very well taken spot kick.
Diallo then played 85 hard working minutes away at Hull, when we drew 1-1 despite having 10 men for over half an hour, after a very iffy red was shown to Elliot Embleton as he was stretchered off injured (an injury which he is still some way from recovering from as we speak). Diallo then put in another 95 minutes or so against Blackburn, contributing significantly to the win we secured, mainly thanks to the very late goal by Simms.
The one game that most will remember Amad for in December though, and which I most closely associate with the deservedness of this award, has to be the 4-1 away demolition of Wigan.
His touch and speed of feet was way too much for the opposition from start to finish in that game. He kicked off our rout after putting Simms through with an incredibly deft ball inside of the 20 min mark for our first goal. This was despite being half-sat-down and surrounded by three or four opposition defenders moments earlier…even with this the case, the sorry Wigan defence could not get the ball off him on the edge of their own box.
He later also showcased both the timing he has for counter-attacking runs and his speed of feet, not only in control but also in shooting. His penetrating run onto a sweet through ball (from Dan Neil if I recall rightly) led to a rapid-fire left-footed curling shot that he put into the bottom corner. This made it 4-1 in the 89th minute, and reinforced for me that at times this lad is a cheat code in this league - I was sat there with my mouth open, able to say nothing but “wow”.
No back lift, no time for the defender or the keeper to adjust to the space he made for himself with a wonderful step inside - bang and it was in.
That level of skill is rarely seen in the Premier League never mind in a second tier tie being played in Lancashire.
While Amad deserves all the praise he is getting and this award too, I have to say we are so incredibly lucky we have a recruitment team who can pull off such loan deals for players who have been valued in the region of £40m in the recent past. Even Man Utd fan sites are showing highlight reels of that goal, such was his precision and clinical, calm execution against Wigan. While the game was already won, he didn’t care and went for the jugular again, putting that game even farther out of reach of the poorly performing Latics.
Across last month Amad scored 3 goals and had 2 assists, which was a way lower haul than many of the others he was challenging for this award. His incredible skills, deft touch and interplay with the likes of Patrick Roberts and the wider attacking contingent have been increasingly beautiful to observe as they develops, and it comes as no surprise that fellow fans across the division see the value of his contribution as much as we do.
When both Patrick and Amad are on the pitch and in shouting distance of the opposition box, you know something incredibly intricate, fast paced and game changing can happen at any moment.
It is nothing short of wonderful to watch Sunderland being so exciting again.
While I am still not sure where Amad Diallo is best suited in our side nor what his career will turn into, the lad is an absolute diamond. If we can do anything to keep him with Sunderland for longer than the initial loan, we should do that.
He is and will be a major force in any team wanting to make it at the top level, or get there.
There isn't a shadow of doubt about that.
Well done to Speakman and the recruitment team for finding such a hidden gem, and sincere congratulations from all at Roker Report to Amad Diallo for his award for his performances last month. I get a feeling we will be seeing a few more goals and assists, and likely a few more awards for young Diallo before this season is done.
Let’s show Boro what you’ve got wee man - keep doing what you are doing as we bloody love watching it.