When Ibrahima Sonko was loaned from Stoke City (for a seven figure loan fee) to replace the hastily-sold Michael Turner (given away to Sunderland, in relative terms) he was a totemic sign of the decline of Hull City’s finances in the club’s second Premier League season. His arrival coincided with some significant tonkings for Phil Brown’s beleaguered side and after five games in September and October 2009 he was withdrawn from view. He returned at the end of the season for four further starts as the Tigers slid to relegation.
Defender Ibrahima Sonko was born in Bignona, a small town in south western Senegal, but as a six month old child he moved to the suburbs of Paris in France, going on to play youth team football for Olympique Noisy-le-Sec. Moving to the south east of France he continued his youth career with Saint Etienne before commencing his professional career at Championnat National side Grenoble Foot 38 where he made 43 appearances and scored two goals in three seasons, contributing to the club’s promotion to Ligue 2 in 2001.
In the summer of 2002 he joined League Division 2 side Brentford and slotted straight into the Bees back four after his debut against Huddersfield Town in August 2002. He scored his first goal for Brentford two months later in the League Cup against Premier League side Middlesbrough and remained a solid presence for two seasons, scoring nine goals in 91 senior appearances. In July 2004, on expiry of his Brentford contract, Sonko moved to Championship side Reading where he continued to perform with consistency and weighed in with occasional goals. He started every league game in the 2005/06 season, winning a berth in the PFA Team of the Year as Reading claimed the Championship title and won promotion to the Premier League. Ibrahima started the 2006/07 season as a top flight defender despite being shown a red card in the second match of the season at Aston Villa, but after scoring his first Premier League goal at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground in January 2007 he dropped out of the Reading side due to a knee ligament injury that meant he missed nine months of football. He returned to the Royals’ first team in October 2007 and but was in and out of the first team from January 2008 onwards as Reading slid to relegation. Sonko was suspended by Reading in April 2008 for refusing to play in a reserve team fixture but returned to first team action in August 2008, only to be shown a red card in his final game for Reading against Charlton Athletic. He left Reading having scored eight goals in 136 appearances.
At the end of August 2008 Premier League side Stoke City paid £2 million for Sonko’s transfer but he struggled to gain a foothold in manager Tony Pulis’s Potters team, making only 16 appearances in his first season. Ibrahima had made just one League Cup start for Stoke at the start of the 2009/10 season, his final appearance for the club, before his deadline day loan move to Premier League rivals Hull City.
Sonko spent the 2010/11 season on loan at Championship side Portsmouth where he scored once in 27 appearances until his loan ended in January 2011. Leaving Stoke City in the 2011 close season, Sonko signed a one year contract with Championship side Ipswich Town in August 2011 and he made 23 appearances for the Suffolk side, scoring his final goal in the English senior game in October 2011 against Brighton. In August 2012 he signed for Turkish Super Liga side Akhisar Belediyespor. After making his debut against Istanbul BBSK in September 2012 he made 62 senior appearances before leaving the club in January 2015 to return to England.
In August 2015 Ibrahima signed for Isthmian League side Harlow Town, refusing opportunities to return to senior football in order to spend settled time with his family. He finally hung up his playing boots at the end of the 2017/18 season and set up a football academy business based in Belgium and Senegal.
Sonko had earned an under-23 cap for Senegal ahead of his senior debut for the Lions of Teranga in January 2008 against Namibia. He won a further four caps during 2008, scoring his only international goal against Liberia in June 2008 and making the last of his five senior international appearances in October 2008 against Gambia.
Date/Place of Birth: 22 January 1981, Bignola (Senegal)
Hull City First Game: 12 September 2009, Sunderland A (Premier League), 28 years, 233 days old
Hull City Final Game: 21 April 2010, Aston Villa H (Premier League), 29 years, 89 days old
Grenoble (1999-2002), Brentford (2002-2004), Reading (2004-2008), Stoke City (2008-2011), Hull City (2009-2010, loan), Portsmouth (2010-2011, loan), Ipswich Town (2011-2012), Akhisar Belediyespor (2012-2015), Harlow Town (2015-2018)
Hull City Record
Career: 9 apps, 0 goalsIbrahima Sonko