With the latest installment of the hugely popular Football Manager video game nearing release date, Carl MacDonald begins a brand new series looking back at some of the heroes of the game in its previous incarnation as Championship Manager- and investigates their real life playing days. Episode one chronicles the disappointing career of Cherno Samba.
“I thought, ‘I’ve made it, I’m the best player in the world, and no one can talk to me.'”
Cristiano Ronaldo perhaps? Or maybe Lionel Messi? No, those are the regretful words of Cherno Samba, a young footballer who had the world at his feet and let it all go to waste.
At just 14 years old, Samba was on the books of Millwall and was scoring goals for fun in the youth set up, as well as for England schoolboy teams. When the media got wind of his incredible 132 goals in 32 games, a frenzy whipped up and Samba was touted as the saviour of English football.
With Premier League giants including Liverpool and Manchester United sniffing around, Samba’s dream move failed to materialise due to Millwall’s reluctance to name a price.
Samba’s football then stalled and his rapid development stagnated. His head had been turned by the big guns, but he was still what he thought a big fish in a relatively small pond.
Having been eventually released from Millwall without ever making a first team appearance, Samba found relative success with Cadiz and Malaga CF B in the Spanish second division, before returning to England with Plymouth Argyle.
He belatedly made his English league debut for Argyle at Coventry, and marked the occasion by coming off the bench to head home a winner. All of a sudden, people were whispering the name Cherno Samba again. Could the wonderkid finally fulfill his undoubted potential?
Ultimately, the answer was no. Samba made only a handful of further appearances for Plymouth, and subsequently had fleeting spells with Wrexham and then FC Haka of Finland.
At present, Samba is plying his trade in the second division of Greek football with Panetolikos. He has also represented Gambia four times at international level (qualifying through his Gambian father), and has scored one goal (see video for his strike against Tunisia).
Although he has found relative success during his stop-start career to date, there will always be an overwhelming feeling of what might of been for Cherno Samba.
Perhaps it goes to show that no matter how good a player is, his head can always be turned by a media frenzy and a cohort of agents who promise the world just for a slice of the action.
At 14 years of age, there was no way Samba could cope with the incredible weight of expectation on his young shoulders, and that undoubtedly proved his undoing as his career fizzled out into mediocrity.
Return soon for episode two which chronicles the rise and fall of Justin Georcelin.
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