KADER MANGANE admits the last three months have been mentally challenging after finally making his Sunderland debut.
January signing Mangane enjoyed a belated Premier League bow in last weekend’s derby win at St James’s Park after being consigned to anonymity since arriving on loan from Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Hilal.
The Senegal international was limited to two outings for Sunderland’s Under-21s under Martin O’Neill, with the former Black Cats boss wary of the 30-year-old’s lack of match fitness, albeit he was regularly included on the bench.
For a defender who made more than 300 appearances in the top flights of the French and Swiss leagues, Mangane has not been used to life on the fringes and concedes it came as a relief to end his first-team exile in Paolo Di Canio’s second game in charge.
Mangane told the Echo: “It’s good to play at last, it’s seemed a long time.
“I’ve had to wait for my chance to play, but I’ve still enjoyed it here.
“It’s been unfortunate to come and not be able to contribute or be given a chance. I’ve trained hard and perhaps I could have been a chance to play earlier.
“It’s been a difficult three months. When you arrive at a new club and you don’t play, it’s a test mentally.
“But I’ve kept calm and I’m an experienced player. It’s my first time where I’ve been at a club and not played – I’ve been the captain of the side in France.
“But I’ve realised the situation was not so bad, I’ve just tried to keep working hard and waited for my chance to play.
“Now I’m happy that I’ve had the opportunity to play some minutes and I hope I can be given more chances to play during future matches. That obviously depends on the manager though.
“I will continue to work hard and wait for my next chance.”
Mangane certainly didn’t look flummoxed on his debut, despite replacing the injured Carlos Cuellar at a crucial juncture of the derby.
Sunderland only boasted a one-goal advantage when Di Canio turned to Mangane, rather than Matt Kilgallon, to take Cuellar’s spot at centre-half.
But Mangane insists he was experienced enough to adapt to the situation and, two minutes later, Sunderland managed to double their lead.
“I knew at the moment I came on, it was a crucial time for the team,” said the former Rennes man.
“You saw that Newcastle were putting on some pressure and asking some questions.
“But it wasn’t an unfamiliar situation – I’m used to playing in big games like that.
“John O’Shea talked with me too and knows those kind of situations after playing at Manchester United.
“I just tried to do my bit to ensure that, at the very least, we were able to prevent Newcastle from scoring.
“In the end, we scored two more superb goals, which made everyone in the team happy.”
Should Cuellar fail to shake off his injury, Mangane could now be in contention for Saturday’s visit of an Everton side who kept alive their Champions League hopes with a stalemate at Arsenal on Tuesday night.
And although Mangane concedes it will be a testing encounter, he believes Sunderland have an advantage in their Premier League survival battle, with three of their remaining five games at the Stadium of Light.
“All the matches are difficult between now and the end of the season,” he added.
“But it’s an advantage to have three of our remaining games at home.
“Our fans will be right behind us now after the result at Newcastle, which could be important.”