Like many fellow football fans this Sunday, I was glued to my TV set awaiting the chance to see the return to action of a controversial football icon. As the teams came out at Stamford Bridge, cameras focused on the Chelsea team and in particular a certain Diego Costa. However, the true footballing connoisseur’s attention was gripped by the reappearance on the Hull City bench of a true footballing legend. The man who was Everton’s third record signing in history. The man who was on the verge of making his first Premier League appearance of the season.The man whose name was Oumar Niasse.
January 2016. Roberto Martinez was starting to feel under pressure. He needed somebody to take the scoring burden off Romelu Lukaku.He wanted a proven goalscorer. As the deadline approached, Martinez made his move. For a fee of £13.5 million pounds, the Lokomotiv Moscow striker Oumar Niasse was now an Everton player. The third most expensive signing in Everton’s history , behind Fellaini and Lukaku. The man with a record of almost a goal every two games for his club. The man who had to be better than our last signing from a Russian club, Aidan McGeady had proved to be a total disaster.
Normally when Everton have paid that kind of fee, then the player concerned is catapulted into the first team for an immediate start. Young naive supporters had already bought their replica shirts with Niasse emblazoned across the back, we waited for him to make his debut. His scoring record spoke for itself.
Except he didn’t. He was not even on the bench for the next home game against Newcastle two days later. The stories and rumours started to emerge, he had a wrist injury and was unable to play. Then he was arrested by the police in Manchester for allegedly assaulting his wife. Suddenly, the fans began to lose faith.
On the 20th of February , the wait was over. Niasse came on as a substitute against Bournemouth in the cup. Apart from stumbling over the ball and attempting several misplaced passes and shots , he failed to make an impact. Even at the age of 45, Duncan Ferguson, our first team coach was still looking a better option. Sadly, that was almost the pinnacle of his Everton career.
On 05 March, Everton were leading West Ham at Goodison 2- 0 with twenty minutes to go. Most managers would have brought on a defender to close the game out. Sadly, Martinez was not most managers. He wanted another goal. He brought on Niasse to secure victory. We lost 3-2. It was over.
However, Niasse continued to make an impact. He trained hard. So hard in fact that he put in a crunching tackle on crowd favourite Gerard Deulofeu and put him out of the game for four weeks. If he had crunched Tony Hibbert instead , I think we could have forgiven that.
Roberto went and Koeman came. His first decisive act immediately endeared him to Everton fans. He dropped Niasse from the first team squad and refused to give him a squad number. No matter how limited Niasse’s command of English may have been, even he must have understood Koeman’s words. “If he wants to play football, he needs to leave Everton!” We sat back and waited for his inevitable departure, back to Russia or somewhere.
Except that on the first of September, he was still an Everton player. Koeman took the most decisive action he could. In other clubs, this would involve losing the club car, giving up the rent free accommodation or the annual pass to the nearby Thai Massage. Koeman’s action was more drastic still. He took away his personal changing room locker. A lesser mortal would have been crushed by such a blow but Niasse suddenly started to show a strength of character which we did not know existed.
He started to play for the Under 23 team on a regular basis. He started scoring goals as well. Coincidentally the first team were struggling to win games. Suddenly social media started to become aware of his existence again. Fans who had been critical were singing his praises. Some demanded he be given a chance in the first team.
Koeman, once again, made it clear that this was not going to happen.
Eventually, in January a desperate Hull City came calling. They offered to take Niasse a loan deal until the end of the season. The rumour is Koeman personally drove him to Humberside to finalise the deal and that there was a queue of fans lining up to carry his bags for him.
And so it came to pass. Yesterday, Oumar Niasse made his return to the Premier League and in a short cameo appearance of wild shots and over hit passes showed why he will never wear the Royal Blue shirt of Everton again.
Thank you Hull City.