In his latest guest posting, Eric Sweeney reflects on the depressing saga of Asamoah Gyan’s loan transfer and concludes that Sunderland may be better off avoiding overseas prima donnas who see us as a mixture of cash cow and stepping stone. It is probably stretching things to suggest greed is confined to foreign players. But Eric knows his mind and there was neither a “not” nor a question mark in the headline when it left his keyboard …
Ghana for a short time had become Sunderland’s second home in Africa.
John Mensah, the Rock of Gibraltar, came to the club and was arguably our best player: big, strong and composed but also, unfortunately, injury prone.
There was no way the club could sign him permanently despite his great performances and popularity in the dressing room. The fee was simply too high and the risk too large.
That said, I was delighted the club was able to secure his services for a second season and that move that played its part in securing Asamoah Gyan’s signature.
What transpired was a complete con. The love affair with Ghana was to be tested and eventually ended. Mensah’s performances waned and his fitness issues continued while Gyan was on “bedding in” time meaning he was allowed to play poorly with a ready excuse.
Mensah wasn’t signed as many predicted. I don’t even recall any speculation about a possible transfer such was the supporters’ recognition of the reality.
Gyan was now Sunderland’s only Ghanaian and bedding time was over.
I was never happy with him as a player, my only fond memory of him concerning a single game, against Blackpool, where he played a great pass to Richardson for a superb goal. This was also the first game after Bent which made it all the more special.
His workrate was always poor. If he received the ball deep he seemed more interested in losing it quickly in order to avoid effort! All his talk was about his own goal tally and never about the team. In his last game for the club this was evident where he could have squared the ball to Wickham for a tap-in or try himself – speculatively – for the top corner. No prizes for guessing what happened.
The truth is he came to Sunderland simply for the money and the exposure.
Idolised like a God in his native country he has supreme belief in his ability. Anyone who saw Ghana play England at Wembly would understand why as he was the best player on the park by a distance. But Sunderland were never even given a glimpse of that effort and potential and that is what makes me bitter.
It was clear to me from the beginning that he viewed Sunderland as a short term move. One season, bang in a few goals, prove his abilty and get a move to the big four in England or two in Spain.
His agents were trying each week to stir up interest. Although his ability was not in question, his attitude was. And that, I believe, is why he didn’t get his desired move, leaving him with two options, Sunderland or UAE.
I had hoped his failed moves would prove an incentive to come back to SAFC, work hard and earn a move the following season but this isn’t what transpired. UAE and Al Ain was about one thing: money. And as a second tier Premiership team after the big four, the danger is that we will attract this type of player again.
But we have a more British feel to the squad this year and I think we have to go that way in the future. Foreign players don’t know Sunderland. They don’t respect their fans, traditions, rivalries and passion for the game. Liverpool changed from a foreign dominated squad under Rafa to a British one under Kenny and there is already sign of improvement.
I hope we go the Liverpool way and give our talent a chance to shine and leave money-grabbing foreign players where they belong, which may be the UAE but it not Sunderland …