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Outcast to hero: morals from Ronald Koeman's handling of Oumar Niasse

Thursday 28th September 2017
It wasn't part of the original script. Hence nobody ever envisaged Oumar Niasse, someday, becoming a cult hero at Everton. Well today, that same player, banished to the Finch Farm cold by Ronald Koeman for no just cause, is one.

Niasse's Merseyside anecdote is certainly an eye-opener for everyone. Just a few weeks ago, the 27-year-old was cutting his teeth with the club's U23 side at Southport's Haig Avenue Stadium in front of fewer than 400 fans. But after bagging three goals in his last two outings for Everton's first team, he is now the talk all over Merseyside.

So what can one derive from the heartwarming story of the forward, who among other ordeals was banished from the first-team, stripped of a squad number and (allegedly) a locker. Here are some valuable lessons for coaches and players alike:


Never write off any player

Ronald Koeman needed just 45 minutes of a pre-season friendly to conclude on Niasse. Apparently, the Dutchman saw nothing good in the 27-year-old striker, to the extent he threatened: “If he likes to play football then he needs to leave Everton”. At that point, Niasse's impressive track record in front of goal amounted to nothing to the ex-Ajax tactician - not even his exceptional loan stint at Hull City changed that. But when it mattered the most, with the Toffee manager's job on the line, Niasse came to the rescue.

Everyone deserves a fair shot

What if Koeman had shown a little more trust in Niasse by giving him same opportunity as the other players? What if he had shown him more affection and care? Perhaps, he would have gotten a ready-made replacement for Romelu Lukaku, thereby saving the club millions spent on the likes of Wayne Rooney, Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen. Niasse may not be the long-term solution to the Toffees striking problems, but he has already proven he deserves a place in the squad at the very least.


Hard work pays

Throughout his torrid association with the Merseyside club, Niasse never took his nose off the grindstone. Be it with the U23s or the senior set-up, the Senegalese kept his shoulder to the wheel. He could have sulked and gone through the motions - but no, he continued pressing, waiting for this moment. The striker owes his extraordinary change in fortune at the club to hard work. In Niasse's own words:

You have to live with that and be the nicest person you can be - work hard, be a professional and, even if you're under-18, under-23 or with the first team, you have to work hard. That's what I think is the best thing to do.

Seize your chance with both arms

And when the opportunity finally came, Niasse clutched it firmly. His first sight of first-team football at Everton, after over 500 days on the sidelines, came in the Carabao Cup clash with Sunderland. And against all odds, the ex-Lokomotiv Moscow man found the back of the net despite coming on as a late substitute. Three days later, the same script played out again against Bournemouth in the Premier League. But this time, he was far more commanding in his display, grabbing two goals to end the club's miserable four-game losing streak.

Do the talking on the pitch

Niasse's behaviour is a fine example to young players enduring a rough patch and a refreshing change from what we are used to from footballers these days. Even in his moment of redemption, the 27-year-old refused to have a dig at his manager, who in hindsight looks a little foolish in writing the striker off so quickly. Instead, Oumar Niasse allowed his game to do the talking.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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