When Jordan Ayew decided to swap the heavy Marseille shirt for the lighter Sochaux gold and blue last January, opinions were diverse. Some said that Jordan was running away from pressure. Others argued that the responsibility of leading the lines for a traditional club as big as Marseille had become too heavy for his young shoulders. Some believed it was a case of struggling to live up to expectations, having come from a family of successful footballers, including his father and Marseille legend, Abedi Ayew. For 22-year-old Jordan, however, it was never a case of public opinion; it was a journey to rediscover his confidence, which had long been bruised and battered at Marseille.
For a player who had burst onto the scene with much promise, 14 goals after 5 years of first team action is a rather paltry return for the enormous confidence that had been invested in him. His first senior season would yield one goal in 4 appearances. Promising for an 18-year-old whose appearances were all but cameos, his fans believed. Maybe he just needed more time to develop. However, 2011/2012 saw little improvement and during the 2012/2013 campaign, Jordan would score just one goal more than he did the previous season in as many as 34 games.
It turns out 7 goals in a considerable 35 appearances would be Jordan’s best attempt at greatness. By this time, his fans had begun to lose their cool. Excuses began to run out for the one-time prodigy. Optimists were fast turning into pessimists, pollyannas into cynics, and lovers into haters.
Tension was beginning to mount and pressure was on the rise. Would Jordan be joining the famous list of ‘faded footballers,’ or would he fall into the slightly better group of ‘promising but never was?’ Then in the 2013/2014 season, his worst fears were seemingly confirmed. After just one goal in 16 appearances, Jordan had lost the trust of many. An indifferent performance against Bordeaux was the final straw. Jordan had ‘officially’ fallen into the dreaded abyss of disappointment. A journey into anonymity appeared his next destination.
But, then, Jordan struck, taking probably his best ever decision since he came into the limelight. After much chase from the likes of Newcastle, Hull City and West Brom in the English Premiership, he decided to join Sochaux on loan. It was a place where there would be less pressure, and expectations measured. However, it place where there would be no Andre to come to his defence after a spat with Zlatan, nor would there be his father asking for more time after a sullen outing. Going away from all he had ever known in football was difficult, but it was time for Ayew to play for himself, his own image. Time to desert that heavy family name and to play for his future, his own real name.
So it was with great relief that his loan move was met. After 7 ‘decent’ games in his new home, however, Jordan had still failed to find the back of the net. And he knew all too well that the price would come big – so very big. The World Cup was looming and only some goals would guarantee him a place. Stepping onto the field at Stade Auguste Bonal when his side played Bordeaux, the same team he last faced in a Marseille shirt, there was certainly only one thing on his mind; goals, a breakthrough, revenge. After ninety minutes, Jordan had found his name on the score sheet. At last.
But Jordan certainly loves surprises. Just when the whole world thought he had made a potential breakthrough, he would pleasantly shock everyone with a red card in his next match at Monaco, picking up a two-match suspension. Time was beginning to run out; there were eight more matches to justify a potential World Cup call. Then two consecutive goals against Bastia and Toulouse had French football fans, and by now Ghanaians, talking about the return of ‘River Jordan’. But that was just two goals, so what was the whole fuss all about, a friend of mine had asked? As if he had heard my friend’s comments and had gone disappointed, he went silent for the following two games, at least to kill the fuss.
By this time, Sochaux had begun to revive their dying and dwindling fortunes in the Ligue 1, where they were seriously battling relegation. There were now just two matches to end the season and only some much needed wins could help. If ever there was a time in Ayew’s career when he could step up and be the hero, this was it. Could Jordan repay Herve Renard’s faith in him by saving the club’s Ligue 1 dreams?
Sochaux’s penultimate trip was away to Rennes and a 33rd minute strike would help claim all three points for the away side. Even before that, he had scored in his club’s 2-0 win over Nice six days earlier. Those two goals in crucial games kept Sochaux alive and kicking in the relegation battle – taking it to a final day showdown with Evian.
So when Sochaux hosted fellow relegation contenders, Evian TG, in a battle best described as ‘the survival of the fittest’, virtually all hopes inextricably hinged on the 23-year-old. However, like it was at Marseille, Jordan failed to perform when all expectations were heavily heaped upon him. Two first half goals would herald a painful and costly 3-0 loss in front of 20,000 expectant fans at the Stade Auguste Bonal. Sochaux had been relegated and Jordan had exhausted any hopes of continuing his revival at the club, a sorrowful end to a short love story.
But Jordan should certainly leave with his head high. His club had fallen, but indubitably not his confidence. Not anymore, at least. He appears to have achieved a personal target. Four goals in his last seven appearances is a massive improvement for a player who had hitherto scored just fourteen goals in five years. And to think that he scored in a Sochaux team battling relegation, which had less quality personnel and fewer supplies, is simply refreshing. Obviously, it is too early to be singing praises for a striker who could only notch up 6 goals in a whole season. But then again, he had broken a long held status quo. And if his last 7 games were anything to go by, then there is certainly hope for 22-year-old Jordan. His ‘four out of seven’ may just be a straw in the wind, but for his sake, let’s hope he can finally turn promise into reality.