Cherno Samba: From England's hottest prospect to FK Tonsberg
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
The striker was tipped to set World Cup 2006 alight, before his career stalled and you can read more about him by purchasing Football Manager Stole My Life, available on August 10.
a new mobile phone contract is a soul-destroying experience. You and the
salesperson both make bullish, unrealistic demands, empty threats are made on
both sides before the tedious face-off ends in a compromise. A chosen few
manage to avoid the ordeal and a famous name comes in handy – like Cherno
You might not
know who he is, but 10 years ago every major English club had the then
16-year-old on speed-dial, to the extent that one school bus journey home was
interrupted by a phone call from Michael Owen encouraging the Millwall prospect
to sign on at Liverpool.
on, the phone has stopped ringing and Cherno recently agreed a move to
little-known Norwegian club FK Tonsberg. However, the very mention of his name
still stirs the blood of fans of the Football Manager computer game series –
who instantly recall the virtual reality heroics of the 2001/02 version’s
explains: “My famous name’s been a good ice-breaker over the years. There can’t
be too many people kicking about called Cherno Samba, so it’s always good fun
when someone realises who I am, usually in a shop when I hand over my debit
card. “I phoned
up to get an iPhone upgrade and the guy on the other end of the line went
crazy, talking about what a legend I was for him in Championship Manager.
Thankfully it got me a good deal! That kind of thing happens quite a lot.”
26, by this stage of his career Samba could reasonably have expected to have
had a fleet of personal assistants sorting out trivial tasks like securing a
new phone for him. However,
his tale is one of youthful naivety, missed opportunities and negative
influences – an unfortunately common story of a talented young man having his
head filled with empty promises.
born in Gambia and moved to London with his family at an early age. He first surged
to prominence as a 13-year-old after netting 132 goals in 32 games for his
boys’ club. While the
bigger clubs dithered, Millwall stepped in to secure the signature of a young
man tapped to lead England’s assault on the 2006 World Cup.
through the England youth international ranks and his bewildered family quickly
grew accustomed to agents competing to get their hands on such a prized asset –
with one offering them an instant lump sum of £25,000 for his signature.
trial at Liverpool saw Gerard Houllier personally intervene in a bid to force
through a transfer, but Millwall refused to part with their prospect on the
cheap – reportedly rejecting a £2 million bid. What teenager in those
circumstances could hope to remain unaffected?
By his own
admission, Cherno’s ego grew quicker than his goal tally and his progress
stagnated. That big move never materialised and Millwall released him in 2004. And so
began a nomadic eight-year journey. Between countless unsuccessful training
stints with clubs closer to home, he popped up in Spain, Finland and Greece
before embarking on his latest adventure in Norway.
The travels have opened his mind and allowed him to mature into an articulate, impressive figure who still harbours hopes of making up for lost time on the biggest stage. Upon signing for FK Tonsberg he reflected: “This is a perfect place for a fresh start – a place I can have fun with football again. “Talent never disappears, but the mental and physical side of things must also be in place. I think that I shall find that here.”
Author: Baboucarr Camara
Source: Kenny Millar Co-author of Football Manager Stole My Life