When Dan Smith's reckless challenge broke Abou Diaby's ankle in a Premier League tie between Arsenal and Sunderland in 2006 little did he know that seven years later that would have been just one of many injuries for the French international.
When Abou Diaby first had an impact at Arsenal after his move from Auxerre he was dubbed the ‘next Patrick Vieira’ and with good reason. He possessed all the necessary qualities such as strength, pace, skill and a midfield desire the club lacked without their former captain and the Clairefontaine graduate looked all set to become a permanent fixture in the Arsenal side.
This season he started in magnificent form for both club and country but has since been in and out of first-team contention with niggling injuries to his thigh, hamstring and calf; once again it is injuries that have got in the way of his progress.
This weekend Arsenal take on Spurs in the North London derby and a game that could potentially shape the rest of their season in regards to a push for the Champions League places. Diaby’s dynamism in the midfield would have been a great advantage but he is rated as 50-50 for the fixture.
But when did all this start for the French international?
Of course it goes back to May 2006, soon to be seven years ago. A then 19-year-old Diaby suffered a horrific injury after a challenge by Sunderland defender Dan Smith.
The Mackems defender was playing at the end of the season after the club had already been relegated after a dismal campaign. His lunge was untidy and reckless and resulted in breaking the ankle of the Arsenal midfielder as well as rupturing ligaments in the joint; Diaby was out of action for nine months.
For Smith, his career has nosedived since then; in professional football at least. Stints with Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Gateshead, Blyth Spartans and Chester-Le-Street Town have followed before he featured 15 times for Darlington 1883 last season. He was released in the summer and joined Dunston UTS
After a little research I discovered that he has recently completed a move to a new team; Seaham Red Star of the Northern League Division Two in the clubs biggest transfer since a fresh faced Steve Harper left to join Newcastle United in 1993.
To blame Smith for Diaby’s demise is unfair. Simply put the incident was just an early indication of the injury proneness that would go on to plague the last seven years of Diaby’s career.
Indeed after that incident he went on to play 36 games in 08-09 and 40 in 09-10 but in the three seasons since he has managed just 39 games altogether and for him to finally live up to his Vieira billing that record simply has to change.
Do you remember the Dan Smith tackle?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald