Tag Archives: El-Hadji Diouf

Why Joey Barton Should Be Begging Leeds United to Sign Him – by Rob Atkinson

Barton doing what Barton does

Joey Barton doing what Joey Barton does

Mixed messages have been emerging from Elland Road over the past few days, leading up to and since the capture of Brentford winger Stuart Dallas. We’ve been told that Dallas is likely to be the end of any significant incoming business for Leeds United; but we’ve also heard from Adam Pearson that il Duce Massimo Cellino is prepared to sanction one, or possibly two more signings. This has naturally set tongues wagging and keyboards rattling as the Whites cognoscenti speculate on who else might yet arrive down LS11 way.

One name that refuses to go away is that of perennial bad boy Joey Barton, formally of QPR, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Olympique de Marseille and, for all we know, Borstal FC. Barton has had what might charitably be termed a troubled past. He’s proved himself on many an occasion not to be above a little thuggery, in much the same way that the sea is not above the clouds. Without doubt, he’s courted controversy and a certain measure of revulsion in those who believe that the beautiful game should be played beautifully or not at all. But there’s more to Barton than mindless violence and, undeniably, he’s a class above the vast majority of Championship midfielders in terms of pure football ability.

The pros and cons of Joey Barton are sharply delineated – he’s almost all black and white with very few shades of grey. On the negative side is the lack of discipline that has seen him on a porridge diet in his time, with several occasions on which he’s been bang to rights when put to trial by TV. Then again, Duncan Ferguson never let a spell in Barlinnie prevent him from becoming a legend in the game – something that, for all his notoriety, Barton has thus far signally failed to accomplish.

Still on the negative side, there’s Barton’s accustomed wage level. His habitual demands would see him fit into the Leeds United wage structure much as a quart fits into a pint pot. So, on the face of it, both his “attitude problem” (for want of a better phrase), and his affordability would seem to mitigate against him as a likely target for Yorkshire’s top club. But neither of these factors should necessarily prevent Barton from turning out in a Leeds United shirt.

The thing is, Joey is 32 now, with a senior career and earnings history going back 13 years. He will not be short of a bob or two – neither, surely, is he completely incapable of learning by experience when it comes to curbing that nasty temper. And on the plus side – the lad can play, far better than most of the opposition he’d meet in this league.

Looking for similar examples of players who might normally be expected to be both too expensive and too risky discipline-wise, the name of El Hadji Diouf springs irresistibly to mind. Diouf was the least likely of Elland Road recruits, having been a top-earner and a serial practitioner of some of football’s nastier tricks. But he duly came to Leeds, accepted relative peanuts in remuneration, cleaned up his act enough for his manager Warnock publicly to regret having compared him unfavourably to a sewer rat – and he made a moderate success of things in a team consisting mainly of players several classes of ability below him. Whether that’s enough of a precedent for us to be optimistic of seeing Barton in a Leeds United shirt is open to some doubt. But there’s one man who should be moving heaven and earth to make this happen – and that man is Joey Barton himself.

The fact of the matter is that Barton has possibly one shot left at writing himself indelibly into the pages of football history. He may or may not care about doing this – but any footballer worth his salt wants, ideally, to be regarded as a legend. And that, even today, is the opportunity afforded to the right calibre of player by Leeds United FC. After well over a decade in the shadows, and having plumbed hitherto unheard-of depths by sinking as low as the third tier, Leeds remains a giant of the game. The Elland Road club is, in fact, the last giant ever born – clubs have come to the fore since United did in the sixties, but not to such devastating effect and not for so long; certainly not to attain the rank of a footballing behemoth, as Leeds did from nowhere under the legendary, incomparable Don Revie.

In the late eighties and early nineties, Leeds United conferred legend status on characters as diametrically different from each other as Vinnie Jones and Gordon Strachan. That’s what being instrumental in revival and success for Leeds does for a player. And that’s what it could do, even at this late stage, for Joey Barton. As his career draws to a close, as he contemplates life after football and his descent into obscurity, that’s something that Mr. Barton should be thinking about extremely seriously. You’re a long time retired, after all.

It may well be that very nearly all of the Leeds transfer business is complete, after all. And if we do recruit more bodies, they’d more than likely be cover out wide and in central defence. But the need is still there for some versatile, commanding presence in midfield, too. And, sadly, the Vinnies and the Strachans are precious thin on the ground these days.

If Joey Barton had the sense he was born with – another conundrum not easily answered – he’d be prepared to walk barefoot over broken glass to Elland Road, there humbly to seek audience of Messrs. Cellino and Pearson (and maybe the physio team too, after miles barefoot over broken glass). He should be literally begging for the chance to play for Leeds, for his last shot at legend status. He should be promising to clean up his act and to become a role model for the youngsters and a hero to the fans. He should do all of this for the return of a reasonable pay-to-play deal, as befits an extremely wealthy man who has naught to lose, much to make up for – and a lasting reputation in football to gain.

Joey Barton – do you want to be a legend? Come to Leeds United, then… and, if you play your cards right, we might just arrange it for you.

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Should Leeds Keep Hold of Maverick El-Hadji Diouf? – by Rob Atkinson

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Regular all-round nice guy Dioufy

He’s a rum cove, that El-Hadji Diouf.  You don’t get many like him to the pound.  At first glance, his link-up with Leeds United seemed like a match made in hell.  He was signed by a manager in Neil Warnock who had previously referred to Diouf as “lower than a sewer rat.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I’ve heard more sparkling endorsements than that – even from the notoriously uncouth Colin.

For a while there, we very probably had the most gleaming, five-star example of the full set hate-wise.  The most hated club, with the most hated Chairman, the most hated manager, the most hated fans and the most hated player.  It rather made your heart swell with pride, and you felt that if Dioufy could be taken to anyone’s hearts, then perhaps Elland Road was the most likely place.  We are rather fond of our villains down Beeston way.

The down side of the former Liverpool man – other than his alarming tendency to get involved in trouble at the drop of a blob of phlegm – is that he doesn’t look the fittest of lads.  He’s not yet 33, and he’s got undeniable pedigree – but you’re not going to see him running past opponents too often. His main contribution to the Leeds team last season seems to have been an ability to hold the ball up in confined spaces, draw a foul and win a free kick.  There was an early flurry of goals, but it was this ball retention ability that really shone in a team which appeared quite inept in that regard.

Sadly, a few live games in the first half of the season were characterised by the commentator making a fuss about this facet of Diouf’s play, and refs seemed to be on the lookout for any possibility of being hoodwinked by the wily Senegalese schemer.  Give a dog a bad name, eh?  There were certainly quite a few occasions that I noticed where Diouf would go down with a pained expression on his face, only for the ref to airily wave play on, to approving noises from the gantry. This detracted greatly from his general effectiveness, but he still contributed to some reasonably encouraging performances in that pre-Christmas part of last year’s league programme.

Overall, I think I would say that it remains doubtful we have anyone else on the books who can use the ball in a confined space, under pressure from close markers, as Dioufy can.  Time and again, he can either slip the attention of a couple of defenders to find a man in relative acres of space, or (more often) he would gain one of those free-kicks.  Both of these gifts were invaluable to last season’s Leeds side which otherwise appeared to regard the ball as a bit of a hot potato. It’s only that telling lack of pace which limited his overall contribution.

In the home match against Brighton late in the last campaign, Diouf managed to get himself sent-off in the aftermath of a successful penalty conversion.  It appeared that he’d taken some stick from Brighton’s rather over-sensitive away support, and responded in sign language involving a too-public manipulation of his genitals, to shocking effect as far as the away crowd and sadly also the ref were concerned. A little surprisingly, this was Diouf’s first dismissal since he joined the club.  We were told that he was sorry, and that he remained committed to the Leeds United cause coming into this season (but as it’s turned out, we’ve hardly seen him since.)

So should we hang on to this mercurial talent, or not?  He’s been this season’s forgotten man and yet, since signing an improved contract, he’s taking more out of the club by far than when he was making a real impact on the first team. I would cautiously vote to retain him, unless the rumoured influx of cash really does turn out to be enough to buy someone as good as Dioufy – and maybe younger and faster.  If that turns out to be the case, then sadly it’ll be a no-brainer.  All’s fair in football and war – and there’s precious little room for sentiment.

What do other people think?  Keep him or get rid?  And if he goes – just who are the likely candidates to replace him, depending on whether we have a Red Bull sized budget, or just a tidgy little David Haigh one? Answers on a virtual postcard, please…