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On This Day (8th August 2016): New Sunderland signing keen to prove his worth!

As Sunderland prepared for the 2016/2017 campaign under David Moyes, a new signing from Chelsea arrived on Wearside, with predictably disastrous results.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

If one was interested in doing something of this kind, a book could be written on the consistent and dispiriting mishaps that Sunderland have experienced in the transfer market over the last decade, and it would be located in the ‘dark comedy’ section.

The club hierarchy’s desperation for success led to millions upon millions of pounds being wasted on mercenary footballers who lacked the talent and/or the mindset to achieve anything substantial at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

To Ellis Short’s credit, he clearly wanted to help Sunderland become a mainstay in the Premier League but he also surrounded himself with people who lacked the understanding of how to run a football club.

It certainly begs the question as to how so many successful businessmen fail so miserably when it comes to running a football club.

One of the many horrendous purchases made under Short’s ownership came in August 2016, when we spent £8 million on Chelsea defender Papy Djilobodji- a player who’d made one substitute appearance for the Blues, in a league cup game.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

From the outset, questions were asked as to how the club felt it was appropriate to spend that much on a player who’d shown very little in England.

The answer? The ‘Chelsea tax’.

Upon his arrival at the Stadium of Light, Djilobodji knew straight away that many were already questioning his ability. After all, the only football the Senegalese international had played was at lowly Werder Bremen, who’d barely survived in the Bundesliga the previous season.

On this day in 2016, three days after his move to Sunderland was confirmed, Djilobodji spoke to the media about the move.

He immediately expressed his desperation to succeed on Wearside and acknowledged that many didn’t seem to be excited by his arrival, whilst also speaking about playing under Moyes.

I just want to show that I’m still here and that I’ve matured because there are plenty of people who say that I wasn’t good enough for Chelsea.

I want to show that I could have played, to enjoy myself and to please everyone.

It was important for me and it encouraged me to come here. We did not talk about a starting spot, but he told me he wanted me in his team.

That was motivating. It was something that I haven’t heard at Chelsea.

Despite being highlighted as a ‘rare positive’ in some match reports after Sunderland’s early-season defeat to Middlesbrough, Djilobodji was generally useless in his twenty appearances in red and white.

Granted, he was playing in a poor team but the defender was clumsy, unfit and an accident waiting to happen.

Additionally, his temperament and discipline became a problem where he was sent off during our 3-0 win over Hull, along with a four match ban for inexplicably lashing out at West Brom’s Darren Fletcher.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

By the end of 2016/2017, Djilobodji was completely out of favour and was shipped off to France on loan for the 2017/2018 campaign.

With the club’s woes deepening after his spell in France, Djilobodji appeared to rate his ability as being above the level of where we were languishing.

In July 2018, he was granted a month’s unpaid leave on the proviso that he found himself a new club, but in the event that he didn’t achieve this, he had to be physically fit and ready to take part in 2018/2019 League One season.

At the time, Stewart Donald stated that he felt Djilobodji and his teammate Didier N’Dong were ‘deliberately devaluing themselves’ in an attempt to force a move away from the club.

N’Dong had some suitors but the same couldn’t have been said for Djilobodji, especially as other clubs were clearly watching his erratic performances in a red and white shirt. This meant that he had to return to the Academy of Light, where his fitness would be tested.

Comically, Djilobodji ‘comprehensively failed his fitness test’ which left the club with little option but to sack him.

Sunderland AFC has given notice under its contract with Papy Djilobodji.

Djilobodji, who was under contract to the club until June 2020, indicated in June 2018 that he wished to leave the club.

In order to facilitate that desire, the club entered into a written agreement with the player allowing him to spend the month of July on voluntary unpaid leave.

When that period came to an end, the player was expected either to leave for a new club – having reached a deal satisfactory to himself and SAFC – or to return in shape to play professional football.

Instead, he returned to Sunderland over a month later, in the first week of September, ignoring written requests for his return.

On his return, he was subjected to the same fitness test that his fellow professionals had undertaken on their return. He comprehensively failed that test.

As a result, Sunderland AFC can confirm that it has accepted Papy Djilobodji’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player.

It was a truly sad state of affairs.

Djilobodji was symptomatic of the bigger issues at the club, and despite raking in a rumoured £32,000 per week, the defender failed to justify the price tag or the hefty wages he was earning.

In truth, his story at the club is similar to many other episodes of the era.

Sunderland AFC was a mess from top to bottom, and whilst not everything is perfect now, at least we can have some belief that the club is working to a plan.


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