DONCASTER Rovers manager Dean Saunders is banking on the international and Premier League pedigree of El-Hadji Diouf to inspire his young starlets.
Controversial Senegalese striker Diouf became arguably the most high profile signing in the club’s 132-year history on Monday after penning a three-month contract at the Keepmoat Stadium.
While the 30-year-old has earned a bad-boy reputation in English football following a catalogue of unsavoury incidents, there is no disputing his talent on the pitch. In 2002, he moved to Liverpool in a £10m deal while he has also twice been named African Footballer of the Year. Saunders reckons the youngsters on his books, including Kyle Bennett and Giles Barnes, can only benefit from training with Diouf.
“You learn more from your team-mates than you do from any coach,” he said. “Pascal had a go against Kyle (Bennett) for losing the ball on Saturday. It is better than me having a go at him. When your own team-mates criticise you, you learn quickly because they are out on the pitch with you. When two or three gang up on you, you start thinking maybe they are right. That is how you learn and that is how I learned.
“If you keep losing the ball in a good team, you get everybody having a go at you.
“El-Hadji is a class player and so are Pascal (Chimbonda) and Herita (Ilunga). It helps the group having those players.”
Saunders has stated his intention to deploy Diouf up front and out wide. Diouf, who has claimed 21 goals in 69 matches in international football, was brought in to ease Rovers striker shortage.
“We are short,” said Saunders. “We didn’t have another striker on the bench against Coventry so I had to get somebody in. We have got the international break coming up and that will give me a chance to sit down and take stock of what we are doing and where to go again.”
He added: “We are in a battle and I know what type of characters we need in a battle and what we need to get ourselves out of the position we are in.
“We need strengthening right throughout the team.
“I have told the boys who are here if they want to be part of what I’m doing they have got to work hard and stick with me, take criticism, accept the changes that are being made and you will be part of a winning outfit eventually.”