New signing Emmanuele Eboue immediately feels on home turf at Sunderland, despite being reunited with several fierce foes from his Arsenal days.
Right-back Eboue has rubber-stamped a short-term contract at Sunderland until the end of the season after catching Sam Allardyce’s eye during a four-week trial spell at the Academy of Light.
The 32-year-old had been a free agent since his release by Turkish side Galatasary at the end of last season, but he boasts plenty of Premier League experience after more than 200 outings for Arsenal.
Several of Eboue’s new team-mates are familiar faces to him, but they were fighting for very different objectives when he last played in English football.
Younes Kaboul and Jermain Defoe were both at Arsenal’s fierce rivals Spurs, while Wes Brown and John O’Shea were playing for the Gunners’ top four rivals Manchester United.
But Eboue says they have welcomed him in the dressing room and he is now desperate to help Sunderland’s cause in the relegation dogfight.
Now we’re playing together and I pray to God that we’re going to stay in the league.Emmanuel Eboue
“When I was playing against them, it was like a war!” he said.
“Arsenal are a big club and it was always a fight against them.
“Now we’re playing together and I pray to God that we’re going to stay in the league.
“I was dreaming about coming back to the Premier League when I was in Turkey.
“I thank my new team-mates and the staff; everyone who took me like a son.
“I’ve been here nearly a month now and since my first day, I’ve felt good. I’ve felt like I’ve been at the club for a long time.”
Allardyce had been keen to add a right-back to his squad in the January transfer window, but despite enquiries for Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy and Lorient’s Lamine Gassama, the Sunderland boss was unable to address that position.
Eboue was understandably short on match fitness when he first joined Sunderland on trial, but after going through a ‘mini pre-season’ with the club’s fitness staff, Allardyce was impressed by both his organisational abilities and exuberant character.
The ex-Ivory Coast international will require several more outings in both friendlies and for the Under-21s before he is ready to return in the Premier League, but believes he can challenge DeAndre Yedlin and Billy Jones for the right back spot.
“It was a little bit hard (playing for the Under-21s last week) because I didn’t play last season at Galatasary,” added Eboue to the club website.
“It was very hard to find something, but the manager decided to give me a second chance, so I hope I can give my best for the club.
“When I came in, I didn’t really see the manager. It was two days later.
“We spoke for maybe five minutes, because he knows me already.
“And now we are like a family, so we try to work together.
“I don’t want the team to be relegated.
“I want to try my best to keep the club in the Premier League.”