Allardyce tires of Diouf the serial offender
Senegalese sinner fails to learn from past
Sunday 13 March 2005
There is one good thing you can say about El Hadji Diouf: he is keeping anger-management therapists busy. There will be few members of the Football Association disciplinary committees going hungry, either, while he plies his trade in England.
The bad things? He is so short in the senses department it is debatable whether he can take leave of them, and even in the less-than-pure ethics of a professional footballer he is beyond the pale given his inability to keep his spit in his mouth. Brainless, disgusting, you name it, the Senegalese striker is likely to be called it this morning.
His manager, Sam Allardyce, is unlikely to be rushing to his rescue either, because if there was one moment when Bolton Wanderers lost their FA Cup tie against Arsenal it was when Diouf lost it so completely he reduced his side to 10 men for 81 minutes of this quarter-final. Bang went the theory that he is curbing his temper; bang went the home side's chance of winning their first major trophy for 47 years.
"He shouldn't have done it, we all know that if you raise your arms you risk getting sent off," Allardyce said. "As usual, he's very disappointed, but you have to be able to put up with the intimidation that comes your way, particularly him because he leaves himself open to it. People know he reacts."
Allardyce did not say it, but he will be particularly distressed that Diouf was not even a central figure in the incident that led to the dismissal. Bolton appealed for a foul by Kolo Touré on Kevin Davies on the edge of the area and Diouf was looking for a penalty in a follow-up challenge by Philippe Senderos. The focus of the Bolton indignation was on the Davies incident, but when your temper is on a hair-trigger anything can happen and not so much a red mist as a pea-souper descended.
Diouf began to remonstrate with the referee but, as he moved towards Steve Bennett, goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who is normally the last man to spot danger, made a rare rush off his line. Whether he was trying to cap the volcano is debatable - Allardyce scoffed at the suggestion that Lehmann was playing peace-maker - but Diouf greeted the German by throwing his arm into his face.
"Lehmann pushed him and Diouf put his arm up to push him off," Allardyce said. "He made a meal of it but that happens in the game, everywhere, every single week. The biggest disappointment was that Diouf shouldn't have done it. If he was going to push him away he should have made sure he pushed him in the chest. Or just turned round and laughed at Lehmann when he put the ball in the net."
Diouf followed that up by getting involved in a mêlée in which he raised his hand to several Arsenal players, most of whom appeared to be trying to restrain him. Spitting mad you would call it, except that on this occasion Diouf at least managed to keep his spittle to himself. It was the only mitigating circumstance because, given the provocation, the referee, who missed the original incident but was informed by his assistant, had little option but to dismiss the player.
"It was a sending-off," Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said. "Diouf plays every game on the edge, he is always like that. He hit Jens in the face. What can you say?"
Plenty if you are Allardyce, who ordered Diouf to go to a series of anger-management sessions that led to the Bolton manager describing the 24- year-old as a changed man after he had been the outstanding player against Manchester City on Monday.
"I think he has taken on board that he can't act like he did," he said, referring to the incident where his charge had spat in the face of Portsmouth's Arjan De Zeeuw earlier in the season. Things we wish we hadn't said.
Diouf's folly was more profound because Allardyce has done more than most to understand a player who is on loan at the Reebok after he became a £10m misfit at Liverpool. His seven goals this season had suggested the move might become permanent, but after this, Big Sam would be forgiven for changing his mind. Why bother when the man is such a liability?
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