Lamine Kone is justifying Sunderland’s roller-coaster pursuit in the January transfer window, says Sam Allardyce.
Sunderland finally landed Kone in a £5million deal last month after seeing two previous moves for the then Lorient defender fall through earlier in the window.
But after a resolution was found for that protracted pursuit, Kone has been outstanding in his first three games for Sunderland, with the Ivory Coast international heading home the winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United, albeit the goal was subsequently credited to goalkeeper David De Gea.
Allardyce had personally scouted Kone prior to his move to Wearside, while he was a target for the Sunderland boss when he was in charge at West Ham 18 months ago.
Yet Allardyce has still been delighted by Kone’s impact, particularly with the 27-year-old immediately forming an understanding in central defence with captain John O’Shea.
“I’d watched Kone myself on the astro turf at Lorient,” said Allardyce.
“If you can handle astro turf at that size then you’ll do alright on grass!
“John and Lamine have struck up a good partnership already.
“John will sweep around and cover, Lamine will head anything.
“He intimidates centre-forwards because of that dominance in the air.
“The pair have done a fantastic job in playing together so quickly, and understanding each other.”
Kone is not alone in impressing among Sunderland’s January recruits though.
All four of the first-teamers brought to the club have impressed, with Wahbi Khazri scoring the opener and creating the second against United, while Dame N’Doye was excellent on his first Sunderland start.
Sunderland chairman Ellis Short was in the stands at the Stadium of Light to watch the January recruits in the flesh for the first time.
And as Allardyce reflected on a first home Premier League win over United in 19 years, he labelled the impact of the new boys as “absolutely outstanding”.
He added: “We started moving a few players out in January which got us a few more bob.
“The chairman backed us then to go and do it (buy Kone), so we went and did it.
“Then we got Khazri.
“We’d already got N’Doye on loan, so four players in January is quite an achievement, and the four players have been absolutely outstanding.
“It’s made all of us look like a better side, and the rest of the players are playing better as well because these players have made a contribution to that.
“The lads are so happy to be here, that dressing room is a happier bunch with those lads in.
“They’ve come in with a smile on their face because the rest of the lads have been pretty miserable because of where we are in the league.
“But those lads have come in with a smile on their face and lifted the rest of the lads, which is obviously good for team spirit.”