Desmond Kane

Please Dioufy, pimp my side

Desmond Kane

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It is always reassuring to note that players can retain their muscularity when they are put out to pasture. Andy Gray, an Anglo-Scot who made his name in England's elite division with Aston Villa, Wolves and Everton, has remained gloriously true to his manliness over the past couple of decades, despite being holed up in a television gantry working for Sky Sports.

Some will say he stuck a little too rigidly to such guidelines for his own good after recent shenanigans saw him banished from the punditry world, seemingly a victim of unregulated male chauvinism.

Gray was always an audible orator, attacking a smattering of the issues afflicting the British game with as much relish as he once did a loose ball in a penalty box. A bit like his fellow Scot Craig Burley did when asked about his views on the much-maligned El-Hadji Diouf's decision to sign a loan agreement with Rangers on Monday.

Gray ventured north in the death throes of his career to join Rangers in 1987, but was never greeted with the scorn and opprobrium that has rained down upon the emboldened Blackburn Rovers forward Diouf, a Senegalese player with more than an air of 'Jack The Lad' about him. He followed a similar route to Gray, the path well-trodden, in docking in Glasgow after time spent in England's elite division.

In case you missed it, Burley has apparently been given "a talking-to" by his superiors at ESPN for venting his spleen on the Diouf subject before Aberdeen hosted Celtic in the Scottish Premier League on Tuesday.

Burley deserves no more than a friendly word in the ear because he was only doing his job in offering an honest opinion, professing a view that is shared by a broad church of football fans in Scotland, including some of a Rangers support who remain fearful that their club's name will be sullied by the ongoing antics of Diouf.

There has been a bit of a stooshie caused by Rangers' decision to take him on, even if a lot of it is mock horror. Burley, who most notably played for Chelsea, Celtic, Derby County and Scotland, looked like he was in danger of spontaneous human combustion when discussing Diouf's arrival.

Seemingly as irritated as the time he imitated Klondyke Bill in a Derby shirt by wrestling the Leicester player Robbie Savage to the ground during a Premiership contest of yesteryear, Burley said: "He (Diouf) is welcome to be here, but in my opinion, I don't want to see him here. His behaviour has been despicable since he has been on these shores. The sooner he leaves Scotland and England, and goes back to wherever he goes, I think we will all be better off over here."

If Diouf was looking for a quiet spot to piece together the shards of a reputation that has suffered more damage than the broken leg of Queens Park Rangers' young forward Jamie Mackie, the Scotland player Diouf abused as he was carted off on a stretcher during an FA Cup tie last month, the parochial environs of Glasgow would seem like a rather hottish spot to indulge in a spot of contemplative reflection.

It is well-known that 'Dioufy', a nickname Blackburn's Glaswegian manager Steve Kean now calls him from afar, is not the shy and retiring type. Already this week there have been images of his bare buttocks in one of the tabloids, tales of his love of bling and his ability to waltz around Northern England in an array of metallic gaz guzzlers more akin to California's West Coast Customs and MTV's Pimp My Ride than Strathclyde's West Coast and STV.

This is a man who seems to be mixture of the gold, the bad and the ugly, a figure who likes to bump and grind. As Walter Smith perhaps should have said this week on transfer deadline day, please Dioufy, pimp my side.

The Rangers manager must hope there are no further transgressions over the next four months. Smith must live in hope that Diouf's ability will outweigh his persona in the short time he is at Ibrox.

Diouf has been castigated for some rancid behaviour since he touched down in British football to join Liverpool in an £11 million transfer Lens in 2002. His starter for ten, so to speak, saw him found guilty and fined £5,000 at Glasgow Sheriff Court for spitting on a Celtic fan eight years ago during a UEFA Cup game while at Liverpool. 

With Diouf poised for combat against Celtic in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday afternoon, there is more than a pressing need for the player to remember his obligations to Rangers in the harebrained moments that adorn the Old Firm fixture.

He seems to have been on the road to perdition for the best part of a decade. In a loan spell at Bolton in 2004, he apparently spat on an 11-year-old Middlesbrough supporter before gobbing on the Portsmouth player Arjan de Zeeuw during a Premier League contest later in the year.

He has been fined and charged for bringing the game into disrepute. He was described as a "sewer rat" by the QPR manager Neil Warnock for berating Mackie as he lay on the ground suffering from a broken leg.

One wonders why Rangers would want to sign such a player, but the question could also be posed: why not?

There is one train of thought that suggests Rangers should have nothing to do with a figure who spits on fellow human beings and who abuses fellow professionals with broken legs.

Would the Glasgow club's fans have rallied to his cause if he had hurled abuse at a Rangers player, rather than a Queens Park Rangers player, if one of their own was being carried off the Ibrox pitch with a broken leg?

The flip side of the coin, of course, and probably the one that Smith has pored over at some length, suggests Diouf, a figure with vast experience at Liverpool, Sunderland, Bolton and Blackburn, can help Rangers snag the SPL for a third straight season. If Rangers reach their goal with Diouf contributing, who cares what he is like as a human being?

Football clubs have never been guardians of morality, far less FIFA, the governing body that runs the sport. Diouf's career may by disfigured, but as long as FIFA allow him to play, he is free to join any club that sees fit to sign him. Who said you have to be loved to be successful?

Smith, a figure who extracted the best from the constantly undulating Paul Gascoigne at Rangers in the 1990s, has said Diouf has received worse publicity than a serial killer since he arrived in Scotland. He must surely have known what was coming in a two-team city, and some will say a two-team league, when he opted to get a deal done that was a pertinent piece of opportunism, with other British clubs avoiding the baggage that accompanies Diouf.

A lack of decorum has enveloped this signing, which is hardly surprising the way society is going these days. Nobody is in a position to play judge and jury, as the Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist correctly commented yesterday.

Football clubs like Rangers, who some will argue have fleeced their fans to help pay off a bank debt brought on by the very custodians that claim to treasure their organisation, are not in a position to start acting like moral guardians of the game. If Diouf is morally bankrupt, then he is only a mirror image of what the game of football has made him.

Diouf is hardly a paragon of virtue, but Rangers must surely be better off for the rest of the season with him in their midst.

Rangers are in a mess financially, and need all the help going. This is a transfer that suits both Smith and Diouf, a player of unquestionable ability when he puts his mind to it. For Smith, it is the chance to win the SPL before he heads into the sunset. For Diouf, it is the chance to win a move to a club on the continent this summer.

"Unfortunately, because of the situation at Rangers, Rangers have had to take him and we are lumbered with him up here," continued Burley. "I don't think he will do the SPL any good in terms of a product. We are talking about continuous incidents that bring the game into disrepute."  As far we know, Diouf has yet to dump a cat in a wheelie bin.

Would Rangers have been better off sticking with the impotent James Beattie, who seemed to be morphing into a darts player before our eyes, having lost their top scorer Kenny Miller to Bursaspor for £400,000? Rangers cannot be faulted for seizing such a chance. 

Liverpool had no problem in handing over £35 million for Andy Caroll, a figure who was fined £1,000 for common assault in a Newcastle bar last October, while Newcastle have no issue about Joey Barton playing for them despite the midfielder being jailed for common assault in recent times.

Marlon King continues to play for Coventry after doing time for sexual assault, but does anybody care as long as he scores for their club? Some football fans seem to have memories like goldfish.

At the last time of checking, a facebook page titled 'We Hate El-Hadji Diouf' had 4,664 admirers. He will discover a few fans of his own if he finds a goal or two on Sunday.

Diouf may well be a moral hazard, but Smith could not afford to ignore him. For Rangers, this is a risk worth taking.

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