It’s Valentine’s Day weekend. The best present any Sunderland fan could wish for from the club they adore was, however, three crucial points against a Manchester United side who have not been defeated in the city since March 1997. Thankfully for Black Cats supporters, the plot followed a dramatic twist and a victory was registered to ease off the relegation pressure.
The goalscorer on that sunny afternoon in March 1997 was a player who will go down in the history of the famous football club as one of their greatest. The question is will Lamine Kone, who picked up the assist for David De Gea’s decisive own goal, make as much as mark as Micky Gray did throughout his 12 years in Tyne and Wear?
Shoot takes a look at the Ivory Coast international, whose header on Saturday helped give Sam Allardyce’s men their first victory at the Stadium of Light since January 2.
Where did it all start for Kone?
Kone was born in the ‘City of Love’ – Paris. However, as youngster, there was only one thing Kone adored: football. He had a talent for it as well and spent his early teenage years playing for clubs within the Ile-France-Region.
His big break, however, came aged 14 when he signed for Ligue 2 club, LB Chateauroux. Here he improved dramatically throughout his three years at the academy, and as a result inevitably attracted the attention of then manager Florian Fontaine.
But it was after his departure that he was promoted to the senior team at the Stade Gaston Petit. He continued to impress and by 2007 he was ready to make the step up to professional football when he made his debut in a fixture against Montpellier. The dream had become a reality.
What happened next?
His next objective was to establish himself as an imperative part of the central French side. That was exactly what he did, amassing 74 league appearances for the side to begin establishing himself as a legend of the football club.
By 2010, though, there was no development at the football club with the side ending the 2009-2010 season in 16th place – just one point off the relegation zone. The decision may have been a difficult one but, with him now approaching his peak at the age of 21, it was time to make a move.
The move came in Ligue 1 as he put-pen-to-paper with Lorient, a side who just eight years prior had won the major domestic cup in the country in the Coupe de France. He was bought as an ideal replacement for Laurent Koscielny, who just weeks earlier had made the move to North London and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
However, initially, chances were slim. Maybe the move was not the right idea on reflection. But when club captain Bruno Ecuele Manga left to represent Gabon at the 2011 African Cup of Nations in February of his first year at Les Merlus, it was imperative that he took the most of his chance.
How did he get to this point?
After exciting the locals of the Ligue 1 club in Ecuele Manga’s absence, he matured into a regular in the starting XI. Later on, success was found as he partnered Manga frequently and played an indispensable part in Lorient’s back four with his mobility shining through, as well as his aerial ability which earned him seven goals in his six years at the club.
But, by the beginning of this season, history seemed to repeat itself at the club. Instead of Koscielny, however, departing France, it was Kone instead as he signed for Sunderland until 2020 just days before the transfer window slammed shut.
Why is he so dangerous?
Idolised by Lorient fans, there is no question that Sam Allardyce’s recruitment team have found a gem in Kone. He has already shown that he can be lethal in the air and therefore is likely to be a threat from set pieces as we saw with his late contribution at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
But, surprisingly for a centre-half, Kone also possesses a great deal of pace, meaning that he is likely to be mobile throughout the matches he features in; this was his main role at centre-back during his six years at Lorient. Who knows, could he be the partner for John O’Shea for years to come in the North East?
How big of a surprise was his goal against Louis van Gaal’s men?
A huge shock. Despite the Black Cats shining throughout the match against the 13-time Premier League champions, it seemed as if they would not be able to find the back of the net and it would be another point, like they registered at Anfield just a week earlier; especially after Jermain Defoe was substituted halfway through the second half.
The goal source however was unlikely in Kone; but, with his heading being a key part of his game as he lost his marker and got towards the six-yard box, perhaps United needed to be more prepared about the ability he has.
Did you know: Kone’s move to Sunderland in early January looked in jeopardy initially, when Sam Allardyce claimed the £5 million deal was off.
Date of Birth: 01/02/1989
Clubs: Chateauroux, Lorient, Lorient B, Sunderland
International: Ivory Coast (1 cap, 0 goals)
Premier League statistics 2015-16:
Shot Accuracy: 50%
Average pass accuracy: 61%
Chances Created: 2