Tuesday 21 November 2017

Bad boy Diouf set for Old Firm debut

Jack Pitt-Brooke

RANGERS have no worries about including El Hadji Diouf in their team for tomorrow's Scottish Cup fifth-round match with Celtic, despite the player's reputation.

Eight years ago, Diouf was fined and banned for spitting on a Celtic fan, and has been followed by controversial incidents ever since.

However, Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist insisted they had no qualms in selecting the Senegalese for what would be his first Old Firm derby.

"There's no reason for us not to involve him against Celtic," said McCoist.

"He's only been here 48 hours and has mixed in great with everyone. He's a nice lad."

Diouf joined Rangers this week on loan from Blackburn Rovers, the fourth Premier League club of his career.

He had previously played for Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool, where he was involved in the most notorious incident of his career.

In a UEFA Cup quarter-final in 2003, Diouf spat at Celtic fans. He was fined two weeks' wages by Liverpool, banned for two games by UEFA and fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to assault.

There have been other incidents since, and in his final match for Blackburn he was accused of abusing Jamie Mackie while the QPR player was down with a broken leg.

The Rangers coaching staff, however, believe that Diouf can learn from the past and show his best form for the Scottish champions, after a promising debut as a substitute against Hearts in midweek.

"Watching him on Wednesday night and in training, he cares about his football," said McCoist. "He knows what he's done. We spoke about it.

"It is not for us to tell him what mistakes he made. People are lecturing him, but nobody has made more mistakes than me. If you do, you have to cope.


"Diouf knows what he's done -- we don't need to tell him. All we can tell him is what is expected of him now, and what we want from him. We want him to enjoy his football. We want him to score and make goals."

It was Diouf's ability that initially impressed McCoist and Walter Smith, and Celtic manager Neil Lennon was happy to praise him for the same reason.

"I think it sometimes gets lost a little bit that he's a good player," said Lennon. "Liverpool paid £11m for him when he first came to England."

Diouf was not the only forward signed by Rangers in January. To help cover the losses of Kenny Miller and James Beattie to Bursaspor and Blackpool, respectively, David Healy came in from Sunderland on a free transfer.

Rangers midfielder Steven Davis has played with the striker for both Northern Ireland and Fulham and has no doubts about his ability, declaring: "There is no better finisher out there."

"He's a really, really good finisher. If we create chances he will be sniffing around the box and putting them away. He is a good person to have around the dressing-room."

Lennon, meanwhile, has tried to dampen down growing expectations among Celtic supporters on foot of a 14-game unbeaten run in the midst of which they convincingly beat their Old Firm rivals 2-0 in the SPL.

"We are on a very good run and we have been playing pretty well against good opposition. But our feet are firmly on the ground and things can change very quickly," he said.

"The cup tie is a different game and it's all about what happens on the day."

Lennon will keep Rangers guessing about his team until an hour before kick-off.

Daniel Majstorovic (hamstring), Glenn Loovens (knee), Thomas Rogne (calf) and Georgios Samaras (hamstring) all face late fitness tests, while Cha-Du-Ri and Ki Sung-Yueng are included in the squad after returning from Asian Cup duty with South Korea. (© Independent News Service)

Rangers v Celtic,

Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 2, 12.15

Irish Independent

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