Gyan out to make history as first overseas winner

Asamoah Gyan is not the first man from Accra to etch his name into the history books as an adopted sporting son of north-east England. Not that a winner from Sunderland's Ghanaian striker in the Tyne-Wear derby at the Stadium of Light today will rank alongside the trailblazing feats Arthur Wharton achieved after he arrived from the capital of what was then known as the Gold Coast to study at Cleveland College in Darlington in 1884.

Wharton had been sent by his father to study to become a Wesleyan minister. Instead, he became the first black athlete to win a title at the Amateur Athletic Association Championships and the first sprinter to run 10.0sec for 100 yards in authentic conditions at Stamford Bridge in 1886. He also became the first black professional footballer – despite his fleetness of foot, being deployed as a goalkeeper by Darlington, Preston North End and Sheffield United.

He enjoyed a degree of celebrity – "Darkie Wharton" the newspapers of the day called him – but died in anonymity in 1930, laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Edlington, a mining village near Rotherham. Only when "The Northern Echo" scratched the surface of his long-forgotten story in 1993 did he receive the recognition he merited. An Arthur Wharton Foundation was formed and funds have been raised for a statue in Darlington. Gyan, as it happens, was a record breaking 100m and 200m runner in his school days at Accra Academy.

Like Wharton, he has also made his mark at Stamford Bridge, scoring Sunderland's second goal in the 3-0 win over Chelsea in November. If the 25-year-old star of Ghana's advance to the World Cup quarter-finals can bring his goalscoring touch to bear with the winner against Newcastle today, there will be 46,000 Wearsiders willing to erect a monument in his honour.

Sunderland have a score to settle: the 5-1 horror they endured on Halloween at St James' Park. It was their heaviest defeat against Newcastle since Jackie Milburn scored twice in a 6-1 Newcastle win at Roker Park on Boxing Day 1955.

Even in the days of "Wor Jackie", Newcastle had a derby match-winning hero from foreign parts. The Chilean George Robledo scored goals that beat Sunderland in 1949, 1951 and 1952. He has been followed by the Greek Nikos Dabizas (2002), the Peruvian Nolberto Solano (2003) and the Turk Emre Belozoglu (2005). No overseas player has ever struck the winning blow for Sunderland against Newcastle.

Might Gyan – the man from Arthur Wharton's home town, 3,900 miles from the Stadium of Light – be the first? At least one Geordie hopes so. "The bigger the game, the bigger the occasion, the better Asa usually does," Steve Bruce, born on Tyneside and a boyhood Newcastle fan, said. "So let's hope it's his day."

On 31 October at St James', where Bruce used to idolise Tony Green and Malcolm Macdonald in the early 1970s, the Sunderland manager was still drip-feeding his £13m club-record signing from Rennes into the swing of Premier League action. Sunderland were 2-0 down when Gyan was released from bench duty. He was given his first League start the following week against Stoke, scoring the goals in a 2-0 win that launched Bruce's Black Cats on the run that has taken them into the upper reaches of the top flight.

"The game at Newcastle was effectively over at half-time," Gyan said. "We started the game very slowly. We will make sure that we don't make the same mistake this time. It's not a case of getting revenge by taking risks and trying to beat Newcastle 5-0. We just want to focus on winning.

"I've played in derby games before, in France and Italy, but this is by far the biggest. The rivalry is so intense. The Premier League is the best in the world. It is watched all over the world. Certainly everybody in Ghana will be watching to see what happens."

Gyan was back in Ghana at the start of last week, Bruce having taken pity on him when the BBC African Footballer of the Year stared at Sunderland's fixture list and saw five games in 13 days when he was expecting a festive-time break.

"I thought I would be seeing my family at Christmas but I was on my own on Christmas Day," Gyan said. "I think the manager could see in my face that I was missing my family. I really want to thank him for giving me some time to see them." A tap-in winner today would probably suffice.

Sunderland v Newcastle Utd is today, kick-off 12pm

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence