When Souleymane Doukara signed for Leeds initially on loan then permanently from Serie B side Catania he was regarded as one of Cellino’s imports from lower league Italian clubs. Indeed along with Silvestri, Bianchini, Berardi, Antenucci, Bellusci, Benedičič, Del Fabro, Ngoyi and Çani there were 10 imports from the Italian leagues. I’m not counting Sol Bamba on that list. Questions were raised about the suitability of these players for the fast paced, physicality of championship football.
Some would feature regularly over the next two seasons Silvestri, Berardi, Antenucci and Bellusci playing regularly but the rest would not and by the start of this season with Bianchi and Antenucci gone and Bellusci out on loan it leaves only Silvestri, Berardi and Doukara at the club from the initial influx.
Of course there have been incidents off the pitch too, most notably the famous ‘restaurant six’ when Mirco Antenucci, Giuseppe Bellusci, Dario del Fabro, Marco Silvestri, Souleymane Doukara and Edgar Cani pulled out of a game against Charlton Athletic in April 2015 due to injury despite the Leeds medical staff knowing nothing about the injuries. Later to be photographed out for a meal together whilst the rest of the squad travelled to London. Some believe this was part of an internal conflict which ultimately lead to Neil Redfearn losing his job.
It’s ironic for me that Doukara should have been involved in this action, supposedly due to the lack of first team action provided to some of the Italian imports by Redfearn. It was perhaps under Redfearn’s first loan spell when we really saw what Doukara was capable of. A second half substitute against Birmingham away in Redfearn’s second game he was quick and powerful a real thorn in Birmingham’s side and with Rudi Austin he changed the game. Doukara went on to have a successful run of games scoring in his next two.
But come the later stages of the season Doukara was no longer featuring, either on the bench or not in the squad at all. This continued at the start of the 2015-16 season too and it was not until a month into Steve Evans reign that he started to feature again. Seventeen consecutive starts in the League in which he scored three goals only coming to an end due to another misdemeanour. This time an eight match ban for biting Fulham defender Fernando Amorebieta.
At the start of this season and another new manager with new ideas. Doukara readily admits he was nowhere near contention for Garry Monks team as he was not fit. Doukara was not in the squad for either of Monk’s first two League matches in charge. He then had two starts and three appearances on the bench before not featuring at all for another six League matches. But after appearing as a sub for one minute against Wolves it was at home to Burton he really got his chance and he took it.
Entering the fray on 73 minutes with the score nil nil it was less than ten minutes before Doukara had an impact. Latching onto a Pablo Hernandez ball he powered into the area only to be brought down by Ben Turner. Chris Wood duly slotted home the resulting penalty. Thirteen minutes later Doukara found the back of the net himself fir his first goal of the season. This time breaking free from the half way line on the counter attack, he was again brought down but managed to find his footing to slot the ball home.
Monk showed faith in Doukara, that faith has been repaid and Doukara is full of praise for Monk;
He’s been good to me. At the beginning of the season I wasn’t fit and he said that I needed to get back fit because I could do something for us and I could play a big part in the team. I think I can play a big part this season and we want to do something this year. I was waiting for this goal because I’m a striker and every striker wants to score goals and make the difference. It’s one of my best moments. I didn’t score at home since January so to score in front of the home crowd is a very good thing. I’m not the best player but I have big determination and that’s why I came on strong.
Since the Burton game Doukara has started in nine consecutive League matches, his goal tally up to four for the season with two assists to his name including a magnificent cross for Kemar Roofe’s first goal against Villa. He has proved his versatility playing wide left and up front in the middle. In his own words he is not the best player but his strength and determination have seen him worry opposition defences this season. When everyone is fit he may not feature in the starting elven but he has secured himself as a valuable member of the squad.
We are witnessing a resurgence in Souleymane Doukara, motivated by his new manager Garry Monk. His past misdemeanours may not have given him a good reputation amongst the fans but his performances this season certainly warrant credit, perhaps his past behaviour can finally be put behind him?