Charlatan or downtrodden victim: what, asks Monsieur Salut, are we to make of Papy Djilobodji, effectively sacked today by SAFC?
As a supporter of Sunderland AFC for more than half a century, I have reacted to a stream of under-performing players with a weary sense of resignation, blaming the club for acquiring them more than the players for being so useless. Provided, that is, that the player/s in question at least tried as best they could to justify inclusion in the squad.
If a player is not only way below par but also demonstrates an attitude betraying greed, unprofessionalism and stupidity, my finger of blame starts to pop in the other direction.
Here is what SAFC had to say today about our Papy, a man who should at 29 be at just about his peak as a player before passing that ominous 30 milestone (it could be worse: papy means grandfather in French, as I know one too well):
Sunderland AFC has given notice under its contract with Papy Djilobodji. Djilobodji, who was under contract to SAFC 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.
Now I have no idea whether he had put on four stones in the summer, or started smoking 100 fags a day while swigging from bottles of home-made rum, or was just a little out of shape.
But what a comedown for a man who has 13 caps for Senegal and was once signed, if then used only once as a sub in a League Cup tie, by Chelsea.
We’d love to hear and present his side of the story. Papy or his agent is warmly invited to supply it. We won’t be holding our breath, just trusting that the club has on this occasion got it right.
Hark back to the 2016 signing, when our deputy editor, Malcolm Dawson, wrote this:
‘I must admit I know precious little about Papy Djilobodji except what I’ve read which is probably what most of you have read too, but Salut! Sunderland offers him a warm welcome. One of M Salut’s acquaintences, who happens to support Chelski rather cruelly described him as “think Gareth Hall but without the talent”. How anyone can reach that verdict when he played less than a minute for the London club is more than a little harsh I feel.
Hear, hear, I thought at the time. Now, just do a Google translation for bon débarras.