Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Somma-time is on the horizon

Things haven't exactly gone to plan for Bafana Bafana since Davide Somma was dealt the cruellest of blows in pre-season training back in July.

An anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained three weeks before the opening Champonship fixture has kept the Leeds United striker on the sidelines ever since, while his country spectacularly failed to the reach the African Nations Cup finals. So this week's news that Somma has started light training is most welcome for both Bafana and Leeds fans everywhere.

After a stuttering start, Simon Grayson's side have moved into the Championship's top six as they seek a return to the top flight for the first time since 2004. Somma scored 11 league goals last season - several after coming on as a sub - and that looks likely to be his role again when he finally makes his return with Ross McCormack, Lucciano Becchio, Mikael Forssell and Andy Keogh also at the club.

Yet his proven goalscoring ability could give Leeds a real edge during the final months of the season and how Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane would love to have another striker to call on when South Africa begin their 2014 World Cup qualification campaign next year.

The 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone that confirmed they would miss the African Nations Cup finals for the second time in succession illustrated a pitiful lack of attacking options. Who knows if things may have been different if Somma had been on the bench?

But that's not to say that the jury isn't still out on the player who left his country of birth as a five-year-old. A debut international goal after only 64 seconds of his second cap against Kenya earlier this year promised much but a lack of appearances for his club meant he has yet to really establish himself in the squad.

The way things are going in South Africa, it might not be long until he's back in the fold. The contenders to provide back-up to number one striker Katlego Mphela have hardly covered themselves in glory, with Bernard Parker having scored just once for Kaizer Chiefs this season.

Even Mphela - with 22 international goals to his name - was subjected to booing in last month's friendly against Ivory Coast so Somma's availability will help take the pressure off his shoulders slightly. That will have to wait for now though as he continues to rehabilitate from a very serious injury that can take up to a year to heal fully.

But the prospect of firing Leeds into the Premier League and helping Bafana make it to Brazil in 2014 give him plenty of reasons to be cheerful after a depressing six months.       

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Africa awaits Adomah's return

If you believe the hype, then it may not be long until Albert Adomah's journey from trainee painter/decorator to Premier League footballer is finally completed.

Now 23, Bristol City's flying winger has been linked with a move away from Ashton Gate in the January transfer window after some impressive displays in the Championship for Derek McInnes' side. Fulham, West Brom and Everton are just some of the names reportedly in the frame to sign the player who was born in Hammersmith to Ghanaian parents and won his first international cap for The Black Stars earlier this year against Brazil.

As footballing fairytales go, Adomah's story is hard to beat. Aged 15, he joined a youth project being run by his local council and - via youth side Old Meadonians - was eventually picked up by non-league Harrow Borough.

Almost 100 appearances in the hard-knock school of the Ryman Premier Division (7th tier) followed as Adomah supplemented his football by enrolling in a course to study Decorative Finishing and Industrial Painting at the College of North West London - incidentally also where former England international Stuart Pearce studied as an electrician in the days when it was simply known as Willesden College. 

Having caught the eye of then-Barnet manager Paul Fairclough at the end of 2007, Adomah signed a first professional contract in January 2008 and proceeded to score on his League 2 debut against Hereford United. In the two and a half years that followed, he became so popular at Underhill that legendary BBC commentator John Motson - a lifelong Bs fan - became his matchday sponsor

A move to a higher level was almost inevitable and Adomah eventually signed for Bristol City at the end of his contract in May 2010. A stunning debut season saw him voted as the club's Player of the Year and the reward was an improved three-deal to keep potential suitors at bay, plus the realisation of a boyhood dream to play for his parent's homeland.

Swansea City were among the clubs to try and tempt City over the summer but their resolve to keep him will be severely tested over the next six weeks or so. Given the club's well-documented financial problems (they reported losses of an estimated £11 million last year), boss Derek McInnes may demand a fee of around £5 million to prise him away, although a starring role for Ghana at the African Nations Cup in January may push the price up even further.

The international retirement of AC Milan's Kevin Prince-Boateng has certainly increased the likelihod that Adomah may be selected for the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. That would create a major dilemma for a player who admitted that he couldn't stop grinning to himself when he made his debut for The Black Stars against the Selecao at Craven Cottage in September.

But with The Robins now beginning to draw clear of the Championship relegation zone, they may have to get used to being without Adomah's services for longer than just a month.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Stevie P's White Hurt Lane

Life couldn't be any sweeter for Tottenham fans right now. Sitting pretty in third spot in the Premier League and with a midfield quartet that is the envy of every manager in the land, some are even suggesting that the north Londoners could become champions for the first time in more than half a century.

However, not everyone at White Hart Lane is enjoying the ride. It's now been eight months since Steven Pienaar made his last appearance for Spurs in the Premier League as he has been relegated to a largely peripheral role at the club thanks to a combination of injuries and the superb form of his team-mates.

Defeats in both Europa League matches that the 29-year-old South African captain has started since returning from a groin operation have certainly not helped his cause, yet there is already a sense that Pienaar may have made a serious error in deciding to join a club where he was always going to struggle to hold down a regular starting spot at such an important stage of his career.

Known as more of a tricky winger in his youth at Ajax Amsterdam, the player that won Everton's Player of the Season in 2009/10 was renowned for his phenomenal work-rate from his starting position on the left flank. His combination with full-back Leighton Baines was invaluable to David Moyes's side and made Pienaar an attractive prospect for several suitors - especially when he refused to sign a new contract at Goodison Park.

The decision to join Spurs when they already possessed a player as supremely talented as Gareth Bale in his position was therefore a risky strategy to say the least. With the superb Luka Modric pulling the strings in the centre, Aaron Lennon's pace and trickery on the right and now Scott Parker's calm assuredness at the base of the midfield diamond, the best 'Schillo' can hope for is a place on the bench.

How that situation may change in the near future is hard to envisage. Brazilian Sandro is still ahead of Pienaar in the pecking order, while even youngster Jake Livermore has been preferred by Harry Redknapp in recent matches.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that it's time for him to move on just yet. Rumours of a loan move in January are unlikely to materialise given the trouble Spurs took to sign him and there is every chance that a couple of injuries may end a situation he described as 'depressing' last month.

But with his 30th birthday just around the corner, Pienaar cannot wait forever.