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Why did Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji scorn Sunderland?

Sunday 30th September 2018

Most 21st century Sunderland supporters could easily pick their worst ever team from the recent crop. In less than 12 months, the North East club surrendered both Premier League and Championship status. The Black Cats landed flat on their back in England's third tier. They hadn't experienced it so rough in 23 years.     

Is that reason enough for players to blatantly breach contracts, though?

After Sunderland's relegation to League One was confirmed in April, a terrible gloom hung around the Stadium of Light. Everyone, including the playing staff, dreaded the new season. Two of those players, Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji, decided to become rebels in order to force their way out. It was the wrong thing to do, but that didn't stop them.   

For Djilobodji, Sunderland took the gamble to spend £8 million two years ago. This was after a fairly impressive loan spell at Werder Bremen. The estranged Chelsea defender was expected to add some adhesive to the then Premier League side. The story soon went sour, however. The Senegalese played 21 times for the Black Cats before they dropped a division. He took one look at the Championship, deciding it wasn't for him.       

Djilobodji's soul had left Sunderland. He made one unspirited appearance last campaign, then jumped at a better offer. His destination was Ligue 1 outfit Dijon, joining on a season-long loan.  

On his expected return, Djilobodji failed to turn up for preseason. He remained AWOL eight games into the campaign. After eventually showing face, it was reported the £32,000-per-week defender arrived in an awful condition physically. He was apparently unenthusiastic about playing. According to the Tyne-based club, his last utterance was, ''you'll never see me in Sunderland again''. A sack letter was quickly drafted.  

Ndong's tale is similar. The central midfielder was signed under the same circumstances in 2016. Having cost £13.6 million, a record fee for Sunderland, he was expected to add agility and panache to David Moyes' side. The Gabonese showed a few flashes of brilliance, but he was soon swallowed whole by England's top flight.  

Ndong tarried in the Championship before leaving unceremoniously to join Watford on loan. He failed to make an appearance for the Hornets. In fact, he seated on the substitute bench only three times.  

Following that loan spell, Ndong, too, went AWOL. While Sunderland fussed over his whereabouts, poolside pictures showing him enjoying time away appeared on Instagram. Later deleted.  

Sunderland considered taking legal action against both Ndong and Djilobodji, but then decided to use the economic approach instead. The pair were fired.   


Both players have tarnished their reputation with senseless actions. At 29, Djilobodji will still hope to salvage his career. Being labelled as unplayable is far from ideal, though. Ndong, 24, is a prospect. Opting to concentrate on things away from football has done nothing but put his living in jeopardy. Unfit and clubless, each's stock has hit rock bottom.      

Sticking with Sunderland wouldn't have harmed either player. If anything, their chances of a big move would have increased.

For the Black Cats, these events indicate bad business brought about by recent woes. They have lost all value on an almost £22-million investment. For a League One club, that's a huge amount.    

Sunderland can take some solace in their current league position. Sitting third, they have a good chance of springing back to the Championship. 

Today's Football Fixtures
Kingsley Ukpai

Kingsley is a football aficionado who craves to read, watch, play and write about the greatest team sport ever known to man. If you're talking football he'll be keen to listen to what you have to say. Loves to play Fantasy Football too.

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