The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR a kid of 21, swap­ping the beau­ti­ful boule­vards and bou­tiques of Paris for the slate grey skies of Dun­fermline must have been a nasty shock, right?

“Hmm, not re­ally,” laughs Sol Bamba, who first left his home­land for Scot­land in 2006.“Af­ter all, I did move out of the house when I was 11 years old.”

Eleven? “Yes, 11,” ex­plains the Leeds skip­per, now 30 and a dad of three. “When I was young, I joined Paris St Ger­main. My fam­ily and I, we lived in cen­tral Paris, a com­mune called Ivry-sur-Seine.

“As you prob­a­bly know, land in Paris is very ex­pen­sive. No green spa­ces. Even clubs like PSG have nowhere to train or play, so their base was out in the coun­try­side.


“My fam­ily had no car.It was too far to walk. So from Mon­day to Fri­day I lived at the academy. You went to school in the morn­ing, fin­ished at 4 o’clock. Then you went to train. Af­ter train­ing you had din­ner, then the next cou­ple of hours were for do­ing home­work. By then it was al­ready time to sleep.

“That was Mon­day to Thurs­day. On Fri­day, af­ter school and train­ing, you fi­nally got to go home at about 6 o’clock.

“Satur­day was mine to do what I wanted. To see my friends and fam­ily. But early on Sun­day morn­ing, you had to go back be­cause you al­ways had a game to play in the af­ter­noon.

“That was my life from 11 to 15 and I can­not lie – be­ing away from home was not easy. I missed my broth­ers and sis­ters. My mum wor­ried about me. I have three kids now; I wouldn’t want them to do what I did.

“But I wouldn’t change it, be­cause it made me an adult from a very young age. I had to be re­spon­si­ble and look af­ter my­self. I do think that in­de­pen­dence made me a bet­ter per­son.”

Not to men­tion a no­madic one. Im­bued with an in­stinc­tive adapt­abil­ity and un­bur­dened by home ties, Bamba’s ca­reer has taken him from France and Scot­land to Eng­land, Tur­key and Italy.

“Let me think,” he says, when asked how many lan­guages he speaks. “I do a bit of English (this is self-deprecating in the ex­treme), ob­vi­ously French, Ital­ian, a lit­tle Turk­ish and an African lan­guage. So five. I’m think­ing about work­ing for the UN when I fin­ish play­ing!”

Not that Bamba is par­tic­u­larly diplo­matic. Signed on loan from Palermo last Jan­uary, he dis­cov­ered a club riven by dress­ing room splits, a man­ager (Neil Red­fearn) forced to work with­out an as­sis­tant and a chair­man, in Mas­simo Cellino, mak­ing ar­bi­trary and di­vi­sive de­ci­sions.

Too old and too prin­ci­pled to toe the party line, he first doled out a few home truths in the dress­ing room.

“It was a young side and I think they needed a leader,” he ex­plains. “There were ba­si­cally two groups – the Ital­ian play­ers and ev­ery­body else. They didn’t dis­like each other, it was just hard to com­mu­ni­cate. I spoke both lan­guages, so I think that brought us to­gether a bit more.”

Bamba then pub­licly lam­basted Cellino, urg­ing him to “do bet­ter for the sake of the sup­port­ers, even if it costs me a con­tract.”

“Ev­ery­one knows what I said last sea­son and I stand by that,” says Bamba, who was re-signed by new man­ager Uwe Rosler in June and was im­me­di­ately handed the cap­taincy.


“If the de­ci­sions at the top aren’t right, there’s no way what hap­pens on the pitch can be right. It was a big strug­gle last year and that’s why.

“Now he (Cellino) has maybe taken a step back and I think bring­ing some­one like Adam Pear­son in as CEO has been very im­por­tant. He knows the club, he knows English football. That’s help­ing the pres­i­dent.

“Ev­ery­thing is a lot more set­tled so they have done their part. Now we have no ex­cuses.It is up to us to make it work on the pitch.”

And can they? Af­ter all, this is a side culled pri­mar­ily from the academy, with the likes of Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Lewis Cook all rel­a­tively wet be­hind the ears.

“If we can keep the staff and play­ers to­gether, we could do some­thing very big,” he in­sists. “We may not have much ex­pe­ri­ence, but the tal­ent is there.

“I’m not go­ing to say we’re go­ing to win the league or even that we will make the play-offs. But if we can do bet­ter and be in the mix, I think ev­ery­one will be more than happy.”

Bamba is a fan of Rosler and Red­fearn, but saves his great­est praise

PIC­TURE: Media Im­age

A WISE HEAD: Sol Bamba heads clear for Leeds United

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