EVER coined a phrase you think you have genuinely just invented?
I have, a while back now, when I described someone as a “one-in-five player” – a player who only produces the goods in games with that level of frequency.
It was an expression I’d never heard before.
But I thought it perfectly summed up Steed Malbranque in his Sunderland days.
Or maybe I was talking about Keiran Richardson at the time.
Or Andy Reid...
Either way, it was a phrase which sprung instantly to mind again when considering Stephane Sessegnon’s Sunderland career ahead of the trip to The Hawthorns tomorrow and his impending debut for the Baggies.
Sessegnon at Sunderland – as I imagine he probably was at Paris Saint-Germain and will be at West Brom – was a conundrum, an enigma, a puzzle that neither Steve Bruce nor Martin O’Neill nor Paolo Di Canio was fully able to solve.
The sort of player who is a manager’s best hope and worst nightmare.
He will be remembered at Sunderland as being simply among the most skilful players ever to pull on the red and white – one of those rare breeds who could get your bum off your seat in anticipation – but, like Malbranque, also a player whose mesmerising, twinkled-toed moments masked a far too frequent failure to genuinely affect the course or outcome of a game.
For that reason, the lasting after-taste among Sunderland fans, whenever they call him to mind in future years, is likely to be a slight, almost intangible feeling of disappointment.
If that’s the case, then that’s a shame.
And perhaps we are wrong to be too harsh on the one-in-five players.
If you only produce match-defining performances with that regularity, well that’s still going to be seven or eight games a season where you’re going to make the difference in a 38-game campaign.
And for low-flying teams in the Premier League, that might just be enough from your star man to keep you in the division.
Isn’t that enough to make them worth the bother?
And certainly no one could ever diminish the quality of Sessegnon’s sublime efforts in Di Canio’s wins over Newcastle United and Everton last season, in which his natural ability proved pivotal both to victory and Sunderland’s survival.
Fans though yearn for more, and I think quite rightly so.
That rarest of creatures, the one-in-one player, is the stuff of legend and the property of title-winning sides. Champions League players are one-in-two at the very worst.
That’s why those leading clubs covet and collect players like Simon Mignolet, who produced in a Sunderland shirt the consistency that Sessegnon could not.
I think though that – and without going too deeply into this – there are two types of one-in-five players.
There’s the Malbranques, Richardsons and Reids, and you could probably think of quite a few more Sunderland examples – who always tried their hardest but had that simple ratio as their natural limitation.
And then there’s that other category, that Sessegnon definitely seems to be in. As does Nicklas Bendtner.
And some fans at this point might reach back as far as John Oster, in describing a one-in-five player who it was thought could have been so much better had their displays not depended so much upon whether the mood took them on any given day.
Bendtner and Sessegnon certainly gave that impression in so many Sunderland games – and this may simply be perception rather than reality – of just not looking that interested; as if they could have produced but didn’t quite fancy it.
Weren’t in the mood. Mind was elsewhere.
And that’s the real frustration when it comes to managers who dealt with Sess at the Stadium of Light – to see that much talent and seemingly that little ability to focus it with any degree of consistency.
A one-in-five player. A player of undoubted merit and class but one whose lack of reliability will always bar him from any all-time Sunderland XI.
One thing he was never anything less than, though, during his time at Sunderland, was a talking point. He was always a great talking point.
So, after all this debate, all this discussion of his qualities, all this talk, what are the chances of him coming back to bite Sunderland in the bum tomorrow with a match-winning flash of genius?
Well, horrible, and all too easy to imagine though that it is, I would put it no higher than one in five.