By CandH’s top blogger Allen Cummings
Is Issa Diop the unluckiest player at the club right now?
It’s never easy for any footballer sat on the sidelines watching his side play and while Issa will be delighted at how well his team mates are performing , he must be left wondering when he will get the chance to re-join the action.
What must be particularly galling for Diop is the way he lost his place in the side. A dip in form or an unfortunate injury are part and parcel of a footballer’s world. But when a player loses his place because of something totally unrelated to football, as Issa did when he tested positive for Covid 19, it must really hurt.
Ironically Diop fell foul to the dreaded virus at the same time as manager David Moyes . But while Moyes returned to full first team duties a few weeks ago, Issa is still sat on the bench clicking his heels, because of the continuing good form of Fabian Balbuena.
Following his £25m move from Toulouse in the summer of 2018, Diop quickly established himself in the West Ham first team, becoming an instant hit with the fans who loved his enthusiasm and total commitment.
There was also a realisation we had bought ourselves a genuinely talented young defender. Having represented his native France at every level of youth international football, Issa had also won himself a place in the Under-21 side – with many observers predicting full international honours were only just around the corner.
It has to be said Issa suffered a slight dip in form last season compared to his first with us – but even so he made 31 first team appearances, including appearing in all nine games of Project Restart, when many felt he was getting back to his best.
But after playing the first two games of this campaign, fate in the shape of Covid struck a heavy blow. There was a thought Diop might get a first team recall after his 63rd minute appearance as a substitute for the injured Angelo Ogbonna in the Fulham game.
But our big Italian benefitted from the international break and was fully fit again for last Sunday’s win at Sheffield United. So Issa was back on the bench at Bramall Lane.
David Moyes emphasised in his last presser how pleased he was that we now had strong competition for places in the squad – something he’s been working to achieve.
But while that’s a manager’s delight – it can be a footballer’s dilemma. Issa has time on his side, he’ll be just 24 next January, so almost certainly his best years are still ahead of him.
He also knows that in this most hectic of seasons his opportunity will surely come round again – and he needs to be ready to step up and take full advantage.