OPINION: Famara Diedhiou’s road to cult hero status

by Kory ¦ @bcfckory

After it was all-but announced by Bristol City Head Coach Dean Holden that Famara Diedhiou is close to signing a new deal at Ashton Gate, social media was inundated with City fans’ tweets expressing their delight at the prospect of the striker further extending his stay in Bristol.

However, he hasn’t always been a popular figure within the City faithful in his three years at the club – so let’s take a deeper look at his time at Ashton Gate and what has made him an eventual fans favourite.

City smashed their record transfer fee to bring Diedhiou, a fairly unknown individual, to England ahead of the 17/18 season which created a slight sense of pessimism from City fans.

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The majority had never heard of the forward, who had spent most of his career playing in the second tier of French football and his goal scoring record for a striker was nothing spectacular. 

It soon became clear why the Robins had spent £5m on Diedhiou, as he made a bright start to his City career. A goal on his debut, followed by a man of the match performance in the Reds loss away at Birmingham left City fans purring.

As the new number nine began to strike up a deadly partnership with Bobby Reid, five goals in his first 11 games followed, along with two assists, Diedhiou established himself as a key part of a City side sitting pretty in the top six of the Championship. 

Just as he was beginning to showcase his talents on a weekly basis, he suffered a knee injury in a Carabao Cup game, which would see him side lined for three months. It was a real blow for The Robins, whose form began to drop off after the loss of such an important figure.

Diedhiou did eventually return to action in a 0-0 draw away at Derby, before scoring on his first start in 12 weeks in a 2-0 defeat of QPR at Ashton Gate. The target man registered eight goals in 18 appearances in the latter part of the season, also playing a huge part in Bobby Reid’s 20 goal season, as their partnership got stronger by the game.

That meant that Diedhiou registered 13 goals in his first season in English football, despite missing 3 months of football, recording a goal every 180 minutes, a better record than his strike partner Reid – with a goal every 210 minutes.

At the beginning of the 18/19 season, Diedhiou was hit with a six game ban for an alleged spitting incident the season before, something which was never proved. Upon his return, Diedhiou scored after coming off the bench in a 4-1 win against Blackburn, but this was not a sign of things to come.

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The City front-man began to struggle for form, hitting just four in 12. But it wasn’t only his lack of goals which was seeing his criticised. His all round game began to decline, as he struggled to hold the ball up, and his first touch was particularly poor.

The crowd began to get on his back, as the departure of Bobby Reid and the lack of a real replacement for him seemed to be weighing Diedhiou down. Fans began to lose patience, with a small section even booing him off at one stage, subsequently his dip in form resulted in him being dropped.

But it was quickly apparent that being left out the team was the best thing that could’ve happened to Diedhiou, as his hard work on and off the pitch began to pay off. He scored nine goals in the second half of the season, as City narrowly missed out on the play offs.

His tally for the season was again 13, but what stood out in Diedhiou’s case was the gradual improvement of his all round game, which saw his relationship with the City faithful grow stronger. 

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Going into the 2019/20 season, City’s acquisition of Benik Afobe saw Diedhiou out of the starting line-up. There seemed little way for Diedhiou to cement a place back in the team as Afobe scored three in his first five, striking up a deadly partnership with Kasey Palmer.

City’s number 9 was handed a lifeline when Afobe was initially ruled out for the season with an ACL injury, an opportunity that Diedhiou wasn’t going to miss. 

Despite not being prolific, Diedhiou’s work rate couldn’t be faulted, and his all round game was at a level that City fans hadn’t yet seen.

He adapted his game, so that it became less about goals and more about his hold up play allowing the team to get up the pitch and create opportunities

After returning from a 3 month break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Diedhiou began to build a good partnership with relatively new signing Nakhi Wells. After new interim Head Coach Dean Holden reverted back to a 3-5-2, the target man began to compliment Wells perfectly and vice versa.

‘Fam’ finished the season with a respectable 12 goals, but more importantly as a much better footballer, seeing him pick up City’s player of the year award. 

His relationship with City fans has gone strength to strength, made apparent by the support he received after he was subject to horrific racial abuse on social media. Getting Diedhiou tied down to a new deal would immediately help Dean Holden win fans over that little bit more as City look to take the extra step to challenge for promotion.

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