Diouf has the character to handle Old Firm test, says Smith

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The Independent Online

Walter Smith believes El Hadji Diouf will handle the stick he is bound to take from opposing fans following his move to Rangers.

The former Senegal international was a surprise signing for the Ibrox club late on Monday night on loan until the end of the season. The 30-year-old has been involved in several controversial incidents throughout his career, including spitting at a Celtic fan at Parkhead while playing for Liverpool in 2003.

More recently he was called a "sewer rat" by the Queen's Park Rangers manager, Neil Warnock, who was angry at the former Anfield striker's reaction to Jamie Mackie after the Scotland player had broken his leg in two places during an FA Cup game at Ewood Park.

Diouf could make his Scottish Premier League debut against Hearts at Ibrox tonight before what is sure to be a tension-filled reunion with Celtic fans on Sunday when the Hoops visit Ibrox on Scottish Cup duty.

However, Rangers manager Smith, who revealed that Nikica Jelavic is a doubt for the Hearts game with a groin strain, is confident his new signing will keep a low profile and focus on his football.

Smith said: "The baiting of players is part and parcel of football and that is not going to go away. He is an experienced player. He has had it before and I'm sure he will manage to handle it.

"I don't think it will be anything other than a normal Rangers versus Celtic game. Whoever is involved does not really affect that game any more or any less than usual. He comes with a reputation that maybe even the player himself would want to tidy up a little bit, but that is the case with a fair number of players.

"I've had footballers before who have had a reputation who have played very well and handled the situation very well. We just have to handle that and so will he, and I'm sure he will.

"It was only [on Monday] that Blackburn gave notification that he was available on loan. We have only had a week since Kenny Miller left to have a look round, we weren't having much success until that one became available. We were pleased to get an experienced forward, he can take the ball, beat men, creates and scores, and is someone who has played at the highest level."

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