Lamine Kone admits even he has been shocked by the speed with which he acclimatised to Premier League football, writes Chris Young.
Sunderland’s season could have been very different had they not managed to sign Kone at the third time of asking after two previous deals from French side Lorient fell through during a topsy-turvy January transfer window chase for the defender.
But from his Sunderland debut against Manchester City, Kone – who had been a target for Sam Allardyce during his West Ham days – immediately thrived with the power and pace of English football.
The 27-year-old was not alone, with fellow new boys Whabi Khazri and Jan Kirchhoff also instant hits after arriving at the midway point of the season, with the contributions of that trio a key factor in Sunderland remaining in the Premier League.
Kone said: “It shows that we’ve adapted well to the Premier League, but it’s not just us, it’s all the people around us as well who welcomed us from the start. They helped us.
“I’m really happy with how these four months have gone.
“To be honest, I didn’t know that I would adapt so quickly.
“The first game against Man City, I played well and after that, I just hit the ground running.
“It’s gone by so fast.
“I don’t think it could have gone any better for me.
“To stay in the Premier League, is a nice way to finish.”
The former Lorient centre-back joined in a deal worth £5million towards the end of January and quickly established himself as a crowd favourite with some commanding displays alongside Younes Kaboul at the heart of the Sunderland defence.
Kone has been an ever-present since signing.
And the performances from him and Kaboul - coupled with the improved form of full-backs Patrick Van Aanholt and DeAndre Yedlin and Vito Mannone in goal - helped Sunderland keep three clean sheets in the closing weeks of the campaign on their way to survival.