Writer: Richard McCormick
Date:Tuesday July 29 2008
So he`s gone. And no one at Bolton is really surprised. Once Sam Allardyce had left the club, then El Hadji Diouf, who described his former manager as 'being like a father` to him, was always likely to follow. That he`s signed for Sunderland wasn`t expected, but as the player`s agent, Alexandre Krstic, spent this summer and the previous one touting his client around Europe without success, it`s fair to say Diouf`s options were limited.
Will Ol` Gobbychops be missed at the Reebok? Yes, but less so after last season. He showed up late and overweight for pre-season training, and whilst he was the best player early on, his attitude toward the end of the campaign was lamentable. In crucial away games at Middlesbrough and Spurs, his state of unfitness was such that he couldn`t be played for the full 90 minutes and at Wigan, he had to be substituted for fears that he`d be sent off. A side involved in a relegation battle shouldn`t have those distractions.
Yet Diouf at his best is world class. His first touch is second to none. He can play down either flank and trouble all but the very best defenders, but is equally comfortable dropping deeper into midfield where his insightful and accurate passing is best employed. If he could produce those performances on a more frequent basis then there would have been no shortage of takers. Then again, if that were the case he would never have played at Bolton.
Then there`s that much discussed temperament. Attempting to defend unsavoury behaviour that includes spitting and drink-driving would be crass, but there are far worse characters around than El Hadji Diouf. His new manager, who ended the career of a fellow professional with a challenge he admits was intended to cause harm, is one of them. Diouf`s indiscretions are down to immaturity rather than any malicious intent. In person, he is a friendly individual, generous with both his time and money.
Whether Roy Keane can harness Diouf`s undoubted talent remains to be seen. A disciplinarian approach won`t work, neither will indulging the player. Something between the two should be the aim. Allardyce, a noted man manager, achieved that for most of the time, but even he couldn`t prevent the occasional lapse into petulance.
It`s never easy seeing a gifted individual leave, but this move is right for both Bolton and the player. Whilst Diouf had become more of a liability than an asset of late, his contribution to the Wanderers qualifying for Europe twice in three years should be the predominant memory. It`s been an eventful four years and for most of the time it`s been fun. Thanks, Dioufy.
Date:Tuesday July 29 2008
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