After a brief break during the end of season excitement, we return to our series looking what became of some former Tranmere players. This week, it’s the turn of controversial Senegalese striker Seyni N’Diaye.
- This article was first published in June 2005 (By Richard Ault)
As Rovers battled for First Division survival in March 2001, John Aldridge agreed a deal to land powerful striker Seyni N’Diaye from French side SM Caen. However, by the time N’Diaye was unveiled at Prenton Park, Aldridge had resigned and Ray Mathias and Kevin Sheedy had taken temporary charge of first team affairs.
N’Diaye had previously been at PSG, Xamax Neuchtel, and SM Caen prior to joining Rovers and also played in the UEFA Cup. A move to England could have come about months earlier for N’Diaye, but after impressing Gillingham on trial, the Kent club could not match his wage demands.
Seyni N’Diaye in action for TranmereThe Prenton Park faithful took to the new man quickly enough and he showed signs of being an excellent piece of business with some fast and powerful runs. His huge frame added a much needed physical presence to the Tranmere frontline.
Ironically, his debut for Rovers came away to Gillingham as a sub and was followed by another substitute appearance at WBA five days later, both games resulting in defeats for Tranmere.
In his fifth appearance for Rovers, a powerful header against Birmingham City at Prenton Park gave the Whites a 1-0 victory as well as a slim chance of avoiding the drop. As he stood on the wall of the Kop, arms aloft, Rovers fans had a new hero.
Controversy always seemed to just be around the corner though, and after only six appearances for the first team, Seyni was handed a three match ban for violent conduct in a reserve game with Birmingham City. By the time he returned, Rovers’ fate was sealed and only two league games remained of the season. N’Diaye scored in a draw at Watford in the penultimate game with an impressive run and finish.
The following summer, allsorts of rumours flew about regarding N’Diaye’s future, but he was still with the club when pre-season training got under way and continued to show some promising signs in some friendlies. However, in the opening game of the 2001/02 season, N’Diaye was sent off after just 45 minutes, again for violent conduct, after elbowing a Bury player.
After sitting out his ban, N’Diaye went on to make a further 14 appearances scoring twice and earning another red card for aiming an elbow at a Reading player. Amidst yet more rumours of phantom injuries, faith healers and constant trips back to France, he slammed in a transfer request in October 2001 after making Dave Watson aware he did not want to play for Rovers any more, or settle on the Wirral.
A loan move to the SPL followed as he joined Dunfermline, a move that was made permanent for a nominal fee in February 2002. In his time with the Pars he played nine times, scoring once. He left Scotland in April 2002.
It was by no means the end of Seyni N’Diaye though, and a few months later he popped up in Cyprus with AEL Limassol. Records show he played no games in the 2002/03 season but did make his breakthrough with the Cypriot club in the following season. He scored six times in 23 outings, and also played a large part in a successful season for AEL.
He was involved in a three way battle for a starting place with fellow forwards Georghios Constanti (13 goals) Petros Filaniotis (seven goals).
Finishing fourth in the Cypriot top-flight, AEL’s real story came in the Coca-Cola Cup of Cyprus (equivalent to the English FA Cup). Perhaps some of the cup traditions at Prenton Park rubbed off on Seyni.
He scored the winning goals in rounds one and two, scored both goals in a 2-0 win at the fourth round stage and then found the the net again in the sixth round during a 2-0 win over Anorthosis.
The rather lengthy competition then went in to the quarter-finals, N’Diaye again on target in the first leg. That was to be his last goal in the competition, but by no means his last game. AEL went on to reach the final eventually losing out cruelly 2-1 to AEK, a side who finished some 17 points below Limassol in the league.
N’Diaye was released by AEL at the end of the 2003/04 season and had to get his passport out again. He didn’t move too far this time as he opted to play in the top flight of the Greek league. Now 31, N’Diaye spent the campaign just past rubbing shoulders with the stars of Greek football such as Rivaldo and Christian Karembeu.
He signed a one year contract with AO Kerkyra, a small club that gained promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history in the 2003/04 season. To perhaps give a better idea of the club N’Diaye had joined, a quick bit of information on the side from the island of Kerkyra.
Despite being tiny alongside giants such as Olympiakos and Panithanikos, the club were expected to stay up after earning promotion with an attractive brand of football.
The club had just 600 seats in their stadium (below) when promoted meaning a lot of work was required to bring it up to scratch. The small ground was ready just in time for the new season as a 5000 all-seater stadium.
AO Kerkyra’s home stadium – courtesy of www.stadia.gr
The club was moving forward, replica kits were made available to fans for the first time ever, produced by Umbro. The opening of a club shop in the local town centre was also a first for them as the fans started to reap the benefits of being a Premiership side.
Back to N’Diaye then. His arrival sparked a frenzy of excitement with the clubs fans. A player that boasted playing for PSG, playing in England and playing in the UEFA Cup on his CV understandably encouraged fans, as it did when he joined Rovers in 2001.
Avid Kerkyra fan, and editor of www.aokerkyra.com, Giannis Sgouros was looking forward to seeing N’Diaye in action. Talking to Rovers Rearguard he said:
“The fans took to him ok, his devastating appearance made us think he is a guy who would dominate opposition areas.”
N’Diaye celebrates scoring a rare goal for KerkyraDespite scoring in a game that will forever live in the folklore of the club, a shock 2-0 win over Panithanikos, N’Diaye didn’t exactly bring the goals or performances many had hoped. He managed just two in 22 appearances for the club and even managed the obligatory red card for violent conduct.
“We were expecting a lot from Seyni N’Diaye but he disappointed us,” Giannis added.
“We soon realised he was not what we expected. His finishing was awful and he has a big problem controlling the ball. For teams who didn’t know that, he was a threat because he would hold two of their defenders behind to guard him. But as soon as they realised, he is no threat. It was easy for them.”
Old habits obviously die hard with Seyni as disciplinary problems returned to jeopardise his future at the club, much like they did in his time at Prenton Park.
Giannis explained: “His sending off was for violent behaviour. He could have been sent off a second time when he almost choked a guy against FC Ionikos. He also (allegedly) attacked two fans after a loss which signalled our relegation, during a fans’ protest.”
As the season wore on, defeat after defeat eventually resulted in Kerkyra’s stint in the top flight being a brief one as they finished bottom of the league some 15 points from safety. One Kerkyra fan said N’Diaye seemed to disappear towards the end of the season and was not seen again.
He is still intent on playing though, and a return to Cyprus with former club AEL Limassol looks likely. So much so, talks are already thought to be underway between the player and club where he spent what was perhaps the best time of his career.
Thanks and acknowledgments
I’d like to thank Kerkyra fans Giannis Sgouros and Giorgos Lebesis for taking the time to talk to me about Seyni’s time in Greece.