Well, it’s been an interesting week at Elland Road to say the least. The visit of Sheffield Wednesday began the week as the main topic of conversation, as many fans recalled that crazy game last season, when logic and reason were seemingly thrown to the wind, and Luke Varney scored twice in one game. Football, eh? You couldn’t make it up. All jokes aside though, the memories of Chris Kirkland’s brush with a Vodka-and-Lynx scented youth were soon overshadowed by the surprising news that, despite Salah Nooruddin’s earlier claims of financial support, Brian McDermott was willing to sell El Hadji Diouf in order to raise funds for transfers. We all knew, of course, that McDermott was looking to ship a few faces out of the door, but Diouf’s position had never been under threat before now. Obviously the appeal of Danny Pugh, David Norris et al. wasn’t quite enough for any other club… anywhere.
Now, before I go on and make my point, let me say that I like Diouf. I think he’s a fantastic player. I think that last season would have been a hell of a lot worse without his calm, collected ability on the ball, which allowed us to draw close games out and sneak some big wins. HOWEVER… I do think that if any of our better players were going to leave the club, then Diouf would have to be top of my list, and here’s why… I think Diouf stood out last year because of the way Warnock had the team playing football. The “hoofball” style is satirised a lot by our fans, but the fact of the matter is that “hoofball” is what we were playing for the majority of last season. The only time we ever seemed to play good football was when Diouf would bring the ball down and keep it for a while, allowing the rest of the team to find their feet and get into position. Under McDermott, this seems to be less of a problem. Suddenly, the midfield seems key to the way we’re attempting to play. Austin, McCormack, Murphy, Tonge and Green all seem more than willing to take the responsibility of keeping possession on themselves, meaning that Diouf won’t come across as the only player capable of doing it.
On a more personal note, I wouldn’t miss Diouf’s off-the-ball antics if I was to be completely honest. I know it’s always been a part of his game, but the diving, moaning, pouting and crotch-grabbing that the guy brings to our team never exactly endears me to his cause, despite his obvious talent as a player and his relationship with the fans. Maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned. Furthermore, like I said in my report on the Leicester game, we desperately need to bring in a striker and a centre back as first team options. We need someone who can score goals, and someone who can challenge Lees and Pearce for a starting spot. If, by losing Diouf, we can bring these options in, I’d have to begrudgingly show our “matador” the door.
As for the game against Sheffield Wednesday, everything seemed a bit similar to our previous draw at the Kingpower last week. Some players impressed, like Poleon and Austin, whereas others left me questioning their inclusion (sorry Paul Green, but my patience is wearing thin), but once again we seemed lacking in the final third, incapable of simply putting the ball in the back of the net, while our defending was just a bit too shaky for my liking. Ross McCormack impressed again in his attacking midfield role, scoring a lovely goal, but his celebration has again raised questions over his future at the club, marching over to the East Stand with a “can-you-hear-that” motion to the executive boxes. He clearly doesn’t want to go, that can’t be questioned, while McDermott clearly doesn’t want to sell him. It all appears to hinge on the will of the owners, and whether they can resist a frankly pathetic offer from Middlesbrough of a paltry £1.3 million. I’ve already stated my opinion on Ross’ importance to this club, so I won’t repeat myself, but you know as well as I do that McCormack can’t leave if the board really want to build for the future. At his age (and I know this is harsh) Diouf just isn’t as important to the club right now.
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