MARTIN O'Neill expects Alfred N'Diaye to improve as he adjusts to Premier League football, but already the Frenchman has lifted Sunderland spirits on the terraces and the training ground.
That the 22-year-old could quickly gain cult status is evident from the way the fans have taken to him, and an all-action full debut in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Wigan Athletic will only help.
O’Neill says his £4.5m arrival from Bursaspor has also lifted team-mates he should be able to help with his sheer presence.
“I actually do believe his enthusiasm has rubbed off on the other players,” said the manager. “I’m not saying it’s incredibly strong, but there’s competition for places and it’s something we haven’t had here for quite some considerable time.
“There’s definitely been a response from the other players. In fairness, the good players at the football club do want to see the team try to be strengthened.”
O’Neill will press ahead in trying to do that in the last ten days of the transfer window, with £4.5m-rated Swansea City striker Danny Graham his leading target.
Creating Steven Fletcher’s first goal and almost scoring one of his own with a header, N’Diaye (pictured below) was full of energy and not prepared to restrict himself as a holding midfielder.
“His job generally was central,” remarked O’Neill. “His English is pretty decent so he understands things pretty well.
“But he found himself out there (on the left) and it was a great ball he put in for Fletcher’s goal. I think it was his enthusiasm to want to get around the pitch, and that’s no bad thing.
“He’s a strong lad, really strong. It’s not just that, he’s got a bit of energy, a bit of vitality.
“He wants to improve, which is great. I think when he gets to grips with the league he’ll be a decent asset for us.
“I think we’ve lacked a bit of physical presence in our side here for the 13 months I’ve been here. It gives the smaller players who can play a bit that chance to play.
“I think he can improve. He’s 22 years of age.
“Once or twice in his haste to play what he would think was the quick ball it’s gone astray, but I think when he gets to grips with it all he will be fine. It was a terrific (full) debut for him.”