Preston North End defender Bambo Diaby's route back into football after two-year ban

Preston North End defender Bambo Diaby has experienced the highs and lows of Championship football in the past fortnight.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 12:30 pm

His full PNE debut on March 5 saw the powerful defender play his part in a 2-1 victory over automatic-promotion hopefuls Bournemouth, a result followed-up with a clean sheet in the goalless draw at Cardiff.

So far so good, however last Wednesday’s 4-0 drubbing by Luton Town was a different matter.

It was a night when the majority of the North End players were way below their best and Diaby was no exception.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

He never recovered from a misjudgement for Luton’s early opening goal, his confidence taking a dip. His own goal for the Hatters’ fourth which he could nothing about, summed-up his evening.

Maybe it was a game too far, with the adrenaline rush of his debut and the follow-up against Cardiff subsiding, the 24-year-old might have been best suited to a seat on the bench – the more experienced Patrick Bauer in ahead of him.

It’s gone now, defeat to Luton has to be put to bed. In the past few years, North End have perhaps dwelt on defeats that bit too long, taking the sackcloth and ashes routine beyond where they need to.

Luton must be long forgotten by the time they face Derby County on Saturday, April 2 and then Blackpool the following Tuesday night.

Preston North End defenders Bambo Diaby and Sepp van den Berg celebrate victory against Bournemouth at Deepdale

Diaby won’t have enjoyed events at Kenilworth Road but he will bounce back.

Read More

Read More
Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Do refunds really soften the blow of...

This is a player who has climbed off the canvas after being hit by a two-year anti-doping ban, one which ended in January and his subsequent signing of a short-term contract at PNE.

The suspension from football after traces of Higenamine were found in an 'in-competition' urine sample when tested in January 2020, could have finished him. At this juncture, it must be noted that Diaby was cleared by the FA of knowingly ingesting a banned substance.

Preston North End defend a corner against Luton with Daniel Iversen, Sepp vanm den Berg, Ali McCann and Bambo Diaby all involved

Rather than walk away from football, Diaby kept himself in peak physical shape during the ban and counted down the days to when he could play competitively again.

He couldn’t train with a club for a big section of the ban, couldn’t set foot on an 11-a-side pitch.

After staying in the Barnsley area for a while – it was while playing for the Tykes that he got the ban – Diaby then moved to Barcelona.

He did fitness work at Global Performance, a high performance centre for elite and amateur sports people.

To keep his football eye in, he played five-a-side with friends.

Reflecting on that spell in his life, Diaby said: “I went to Global every morning at 7am, trained with a physical coach. Then I would go to work.

"I did that for one year. For football, I did five against five with some friends on a small pitch. Every game was like a final to me, I always wanted to win.

“During my ban I couldn’t go on an 11-a-side pitch, for a long time I couldn’t train with any professional players.

"The ban was strict with me, I had to be careful with anything I did. My football had to be with friends only.

"I never lost faith in myself during the ban. Every day I kept working and kept myself strong with the objective of coming back to the Championship.

"It was easy to work hard because I get that from home, everyone in my house worked hard.”

Diaby’s personality is a friendly and warming one, with lots of laughter during the light-hearted sections of his recent chat with the local media.

Where he’s very different to his North End team-mates is his language skills – he speaks five European languages and three Senegal dialects.

It’s not been a case of him hitting the books and studying for hour upon hour, it’s just that his career has taken to him different countries and he’s needed to learn languages to fit in.

Born in Senegal before moving to Spain as a child, Diaby played in Italy and Belgium before coming to Barnsley.

“I speak eight languages and the European ones are because I lived in a few different countries for football,” said Diaby.

"My professional career started in Italy, then I went to Belgium where three languages are spoken.

"I started to learn English when I joined Barnsley and that has been the most difficult one for me.

"Talking with my team-mates, watching films, speaking with friends, they are the ways I learn a language – I don’t do anything special.

"I want to learn. My agent speaks seven languages and I wanted to beat him, so now I speak eight! I want to learn more.

"I speak English, Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian and three African dialects. Two of those dialects are completely different.”

In line with his PNE team-mates, Diaby is currently enjoying a few days off.

With a 17-day gap in the fixture list, North End boss Ryan Lowe felt this was the right time for a break.

The performance and result at Luton might not have been the best way to go into the holiday time but with the international break being slightly extended by the rescheduling of the Blackpool game, it’s a chance for some rest and recuperation.

Of late the schedule has been unrelenting for PNE, with the Saturday-Tuesday/Wednesday-Saturday programme a common one.

They played 17 games between January 3 and March 16, with recovery sessions and time on the training pitch slotted in.

It will be busy when they come back, eight games in five weeks.