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Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg

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On this day (11 July 2002): Dialloooooo!!! Happy birthday Amad!

It’s a very happy birthday to one of the stars of last season! Amad turns 21 today.

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

“Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you!”

Those are the famous words to the nerve-tingling, pre-match gee-up – are especially relevant when describing how we all feel about Amad after his fantastic loan spell at the club last season.

After a relatively unsuccessful loan spell in Glasgow with Rangers, there was next to no expectation of the Ivorian when he joined the club.

He arrived here with a point to prove – and Sunderland were the perfect club for him at that particular juncture of his career, given our approach of offering opportunities to young, talented footballers.

What transpired, after Amad settled in, was a player expressing his extremely exciting ability – and he was truly adored by fellow players and supporters. All in all, Amad contributed 14 goals and three assists throughout the season, in just 32 starts in all competitions.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Some of these goals came at vital stages of the season - and in vital games too. Think of the Middlesbrough game at home, the Birmingham victory in April and, of course, the Preston and Luton games as the season reached its final throes.

In addition to his goals, his intricate passing, combination play with Patrick Roberts and his constant ability to get fans off their seats made Amad one of the stars of the season – and in many people's eyes, the best loan player the club has ever had.

It is easy to get sucked into the hyperbole and recency bias of his season at the club, but there is no doubt that very few footballers have won the hearts and minds of the Sunderland support base like Amad.

Looking forward, it is hard to imagine how the attacking maestro's contribution can be replaced.

Rumours of a return to the Stadium of Light for Amad have been mooted numerous times since the end of the season - and Amad’s helped keep hope alive with his flirtations over social media.

With Erik Ten Haag looking to mould his own side for the new season, reports have suggested that Amad is unlikely to feature as part of his plans. It remains to be seen what will unfold over the next few weeks for young attacker – but what is clear is he left his mark on the supporters in Sunderland and we certainly would love to have him back with open arms.

Sunderland has the perfect team for him to develop in – and the club’s structure means young players like him are going to be given all the help and support they need to develop.

As the song says, we just couldn’t help falling in love with him.

And I reckon the feeling was mutual.

Happy birthday, Amad.

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