Cats Eye View: High-energy Ndong offers glimpse of potential in first Sunderland start

Didier Ndong gets stuck in at Tottenham yesterday. Picture by Frank Reid
Didier Ndong gets stuck in at Tottenham yesterday. Picture by Frank Reid
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Didier Ndong has a big price tag to live up to.

But the 22-year-old gave the first encouraging signs that the £13.6million Sunderland forked out to Lorient might just prove to be cash well spent.

Ndong made his full Sunderland debut yesterday in the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham, where the Black Cats battled hard, only to be sunk by Harry Kane’s 59th-minute winner.

The Gabon international teamed up in the middle of the park, with skipper Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff.

His senior colleagues brought their experience to the side, while Ndong provided glimpses of what the side also requires – energy.

It was a difficult baptism for the man with the striking hair-do.

Spurs fielded a side which, on paper, looked frightening and on grass they were pretty tasty, just look at their midfield foes he was up against – Mousa Dembele, Victor Wanyama, Moussa Sissoko, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son.

It was a day when Sunderland had to dig in rather than spray the ball about – that was the way Spurs played the game.

But Ndong was not found wanting in his first 90 minutes in the Premier League.

His first touch was a lovely turn just outside his own box, but much of his early play involved defensive graft.

Sunderland were pinned back from the off and barely saw the ball for the opening 15 minutes.

But Ndong made his contribution alongside messrs Cattermole and Kirchhoff.

Skilled, athletic and no slouch across the ground, on the occasions when Sunderland put something together, he was involved.

You can sense that Cattermole and Kirchhoff will provide the steel and nous in front of the back four and Ndong will apply the legs.

Is he worth £13.6 million? We will see.

The record fee for a young fella, who had only played a season and a half for Lorient in the French top flight, is more a reflection of the inflated transfer prices sparked by the TV riches and Sunderland’s desperation to make an impact in the market.

But our first real look at Ndong was certainly an encouraging one.

With Jermain Defoe an expert finisher up front and Steven Pienaar and Adnan Januzaj adept with their support from the outside, a dynamic figure in the centre of the park is key for David Moyes.

And while 90-odd hard minutes of toil at White Hart Lane against one of England’s most gifted sides may not have provided conclusive evidence, the Sunderland boss might just have the right man.