What’s he all about, this Alfie? Meet Monsieur N’Diaye, new owner of a famous shirt number

Well, the first inward transfer has been done. Alfred N’Diaye, 22, is now a Sunderland player having joined for, reportedly, just under £4m – the club says “undisclosed fee” so has no grounds for complaint when people speculate – and hopes to play some part in Saturday’s game against West Ham.

That’s a decent goal you see him picking up for the Turkish side, Bursaspor, in the clip. So he’s an attacking midfielder but can also play in defence.

What more do we know? He was born in Paris, played for Nancy in Ligue 1 – not a great recommendation in itself – before moving to Turkey and has represented France at four youth international levels.

He talks in heavily accented, faltering English that still compares well with the speech of some Englishmen I’ve heard. The Sunderland fans are “crazy, fanatical”, the Premier is the world’s best league. The sort of things you’d expect him to say.

And he gets the number four shirt. Guess who else wore that, not the shirt but the number, for Sunderland?

None other than Colin Todd, 173 games for SAFC and later 27 for England and a strong contender for best player to wear our colours since 1960. Martin Harvey and Stan Anderson also wore number four as did Claudio Reyna, Lee Clark and Paul Bracewell. Perhaps it graced the back of other notable Sunderland players, too, as well as a few duds.

It is an encouraging start to Martin O’Neill’s search for new players. Danny Graham would be a good acquisiton from Swansea, too, though that deal still has to be clinched.

For now, bienvenue Alfie, or Monsieur N’Diaye. Have a word or two with Stephane Sessegnon and see if you cannot forge a useful Francophone partnership that will help bring points and goals to the Lads.

See also: my piece on the signing at ESPN: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/945?cc=5739

Happy new year! Monsieur Salut, by Matt
Happy new year! Monsieur Salut, by Matt

The first arrival in a transfer window usually gives supporters a lift and most fans of Sunderland will be content with the signing of the French midfielder, Alfred N’Diaye, from the Turkish club Bursaspor.

N’Diaye’s transfer for an undisclosed fee that everyone suspects is just under £4 million was announced in quick succession by both clubs.

Sunderland’s manager Martin O’Neill, who knows he has midfield weaknesses, said he was delighted with the capture and the options it gave him.

Lee Cattermole’s long injury lay-off, and the patchy form of Seb Larsson, Stephane Sessegnon and the wide men, James McClean and Adam Johnson, have diminished the team’s ability to hold a lead or create openings for Steven Fletcher, who generally operates as a lone striker.

Having completed a three-and-a-half year deal, N’Diaye was handed the number four shirt that, possibly unknown to him, has strong echoes in Sunderland’s post-war history.

Colin Todd, regarded by some as Sunderland’s finest player in living memory – despite competition for that honour from others including Charlie Hurley, Brian Clough and Kevin Phillips – wore the same number for most of his 173 games before moving on to Derby County in 1971. He went on to play 27 times for England.

Paris-born, N’Diaye is 22 and played for Ligue 1 club Nancy before moving to Turkey in 2011. He has represented France at various youth levels.

The departure of David Meyler to Hull City made the signing of a midfielder of a combative but also enterprising nature essential. O’Neill could still do with another striker – there are conflicting signals about the prospects of landing Swansea’s Danny Graham – and at least one central defender.

O’Neill told the official club site: “Alfred is a strong, powerful young player and as such can offer us more strength in depth.”

N’Diaye, in hesitant but unexpectedly good English, said he had heard about Sunderland’s “crazy, fanatical fans” and hoped for the chance to play a part in Saturday’s home game against West Ham. He described the Premier League as the best in the world.

23 thoughts on “What’s he all about, this Alfie? Meet Monsieur N’Diaye, new owner of a famous shirt number”

  1. Tommy Miller was a special player who had am amazing and unprecedented ability to hide for whole games and in fact the whole of the time we had him, I still haven’t seen the bloke.

    I bet he’s the same at Hillsborough these days. Nobody knows he’s there.

    • ….or as Morrissey wrote:
      So for once in my life
      Let me get what I want
      Lord knows, it would be the first time …

  2. This all reminds me more of Lorik Cana,A big, tough tackling midfielder who we all expected to blow everyone away…didn’t quite turn out that way though….not wanting to rain on anyones parade!

  3. Aw, Sobs…………. I really wish you hadn’t mentioned the Bassatola as he was the first thing that I thought about when I saw that we were interested in Alf.

    A less effective midfield player would be difficult to find, apart from the others that McCarthy landed us with, such as Tommy Miller who was possibly even worse than CB, the most inconspicuous/invisible/useless (take your pick). Karl Robinson and Jeff Whitley! I take my first comment back. He was in exceedingly similar company.

    • Sorry, Jeremy – CB was the first man I thought of when Alf was mentioned, although it took me a week to remember his name.
      At least Miller scored 3, Robinson about the same, and Whitley one (I think) but I get your drift!


  4. I remember similar reactions to a similar-lookin gplayer who was brought in to do a similar job. They called him Christian Bassila – he was built like a brick lavvy and was allegedly a midfield powerhouse. In reality, he was a big Jessie who tackled like a powder-puff, was knocked off the ball with ease, and was subsitituted in 4 of the 13 games he started. Mind, the rest weren’t much use ‘cos we only got 15 points that season.

    Here’s hoping that Alfie (N’Diaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaye will always love you,oooh) proves to be the player he seems to be

  5. Got a good feeling too Jeremy. Age on his side, he’s the right build but looks like he can play a bit too. I think the reason some foreign players we’ve signed have struggled is down largely to strength and pace too, N’Diaye isn’t lacking at all in that department. Got high hopes for the lad, here’s hoping for some more quality to play alongside him. I hope McClean will get his long overdue ‘rest’ now, with Larsson or Sess on the right.

  6. This is what I’ve been banging on about in my posts for a while now: the need for a Dembele-like midfielder.
    Well, we have sort-of that with this N’Diaye. He looks a bit raw and young and it will take him a few months to get settled I think but he looks like he has potential.

    I don’t think he’ll feature v West Ham, especially at centre back. Just doesn’t know our system yet.

    Look out for more bulky, strong MON type signings soon!

    Getting foreign non-Prem players in is a bit of a gamble though. :s Sometimes the Brucey gamble failed with the likes of Silva, Riveros and Angeleri , but I think MON knows a good player when he sees one (eg: Fletch).

    • Ian Wrote ….’I don’t think he’ll feature v West Ham, especially at centre back. Just doesn’t know our system yet’

      I haven’t missed a game this season and I still don’t know what system we play!

  7. Over the moon with this signing, fits the bill in every way. Having predicted O’Neill wouldn’t sign young promising players from europe I’d now like to predict he won’t ever take us into europe or get to a cup final, let alone win one.

  8. Tom said “I suspect he may struggle for the rest of the season with the pace and quality of the Premiership, but he offers an interesting coaching challenge to turn him into a competitive midfielder for next season. His heading ability looks to be too weak for him to be a serious centre back.”

    You’ve got me worried that we’ve paid 4M on a player that needs this much work Tom!

    • Jeremy,

      I am not so much worried as cautious. Internet clips can be misleading, but on what I have seen, we have signed a potentially good player who is likely to have only a marginally positive effect this season.

      I said in a post before Christmas that I would like to see a midfielder signed who was of the Yaya Toure mold; AN’D seems to be that type of player, but has a naivete about him that will require both experience and coaching to iron out. I’m hoping he will turn out well, but I support those comments that caution patience.

      • I’m not sure – unless we have another CM lined up – that we can afford to sign potential. That imposing midfielder is needed now. But you’re right in pointing out that we need to maintain perspective, he’s 22 years old.

  9. I’d certainly put him on for a while against the Hammers, if not in the starting lineup. Yes, he’s young and has no Premiership experience but that just might galvanize him into showing what he can do. Throw him in the deep end for this game and get an idea of what he’s all about and the kind of development he needs. Might just kick the game out of the doldrums.

  10. As far as one can ascertain from YOUTube clips AN’D has a midfield presence and positions himself well. Pace is moderate, and heading ability looks to leave much for improvement, but he seems to be brave, and can see a pass.

    I suspect he may struggle for the rest of the season with the pace and quality of the Premiership, but he offers an interesting coaching challenge to turn him into a competitive midfielder for next season. His heading ability looks to be too weak for him to be a serious centre back.

    I hope MON has at least one decent (and quick) centre back lined up; Distin would have been an excellent short-term signing in my book.

    On the striker front, I am unconvinced by Graham due to his style being so close to that of Fletcher and his lack of pace. Guidetti appears to offer more complementary skills whilst having decent pace and an eye for goal. I also like the way Whickham is developing; he’s not far off now and hopefully will get more time on the pitch in partnership with Fletcher and with Sessegnon moved wide in place of McClean (though McC has better defensive qualities for certain games).

  11. He ‘s still very young and never played in the Premiership. Id be very wary of throwing him on against West Ham.They’ll need to get him settled in first and have a good look before throwing him into the cauldron.

    Always exciting though to sign a new player.

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