Gary Rowell: Sunderland would be clear of relegation if they’d had Lamine Kone all season

Lamine Kone
Lamine Kone
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In another season battling against the drop, you just have to look at the goals against column to see why Sunderland are down there after their defensive record in the first half of the campaign was particularly bad.

However, since the transfer window closed, there has been a definite improvement - mainly thanks to the arrival of Lamine Kone.

If only we’d had Kone from day one of the campaign, I don’t think we’d be in the position we are now.

More importantly, Kone has struck up a good partnership with Younes Kaboul. Both are strong and powerful, and crucially most of the time, they’ve looked like they’re on the same wavelength.

Former Sunderland assistant boss Bobby Saxton always used to say that a team needs partnerships all over the pitch and I don’t think there’s a more important one than the two centre-halves.

If they are solid and hard to get past, then they become the foundation that every team needs to build on.

Just look at Leicester. Their forwards might have got the headlines, but they have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League thanks to Robert Huth and Wes Morgan at the heart of the back four.

Individually, there are much better centre-backs around than those two, but together, they’ve been formidable and have been just as important in Leicester’s success as Jamie Vardy and Ryad Mahrez.

Morgan and Huth aren’t interested in bringing the ball out of defence or being creative, they just love to defend and stop the opposition. It’s simple, but it works.

Ask any striker, and they would rather play against centre-backs who think they can play; the ones who are frustrated number 10s and are always likely to give you a chance by taking one risk too many.

The Leicester duo don’t play like that, all you get from them is bruises and if Kone and Kaboul continue their development and have the same attitude, I can’t see any reason why they can’t be just as effective.