Ã¢â‚¬Å“Diouf is not one of my favourites but if he improves our attacking options then I’ll have to get over it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
These are the words of a Sunderland supporter on an internet message board following the news that El-Hadji Diouf is on the verge of a Ã‚Â£2.5million move to Sunderland from Bolton as Roy Keane continues trying to totally rebuild his side ahead of the new Premier League season.
The Senegal international Diouf, who is still only twenty-seven years old, seems to have been around forever. He has been universally disliked by fans of every club other than those he was actually playing for at the time. He had one season left on his Bolton contract but had expressed his desire to leave and made it quite clear that he would do so.
Diouf, who can play up front or on the wing, spent four seasons at the Reebok Stadium after initially joining the club on loan from Liverpool. He is a mercurial player who can produce moments of sheer brilliance. Unfortunately, he is also incredibly temperamental and is just as likely to spit on someone.
Sunderland manager Roy Keane has been busy in the transfer market in recent days, signing Tottenham pair Teemu Tainio and Pascal Chimbonda. He is still pursuing their former team-mates, Steed Malbranque and Younes Kabul and he is clearly looking to considerably strengthen his squad.
So how are Sunderland fans supposed to react to this news? There is no doubt that El-Hadji Diouf is a decent signing. As the fan at the beginning of the article said, he will definitely increase and improve their attacking options. So, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all good news for the fans then? Well, no it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.
There may be one or two Sunderland fans who have always liked Diouf. There may be a couple of hundred who have always admired him. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m prepared to wager, however, that ninety-nine percent of the thousands and thousands of SunderlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s passionate and faithful fans have absolutely hated Diouf since he arrived in Liverpool back in 2002. Now, all of a sudden he has to become a hero!
This is, of course, an occupational hazard of being a football fan. The loyalty you have for your team can never be redirected. Whatever the Chairman, Board of Directors, Manager or players might do to drive you absolutely mad, you still have to love the club. You have no choice. You might not want to, but those feelings will always be with you.
For players and managers, of course, it is different. Sometimes players play for the team they supported as a boy and in those few cases, they will know what the fans are going through. In a vast majority of cases, however, the love for the club felt by the players is nowhere near as great as that felt by the fans.
Like most fans, I am fickle enough to support someone that just a few days earlier I had hurled abuse at when they played for someone else. Sometimes the hatred is too great for the gap to be bridged. For example, former Arsenal manager George Graham had no chance of winning over the fans when he took over at Tottenham.
In Spain, the great Portuguese winger Luis Figo was popular at both Barcelona and Real Madrid. He was hated by the fans of each when he played for the other, but loved by the fans when he played for them.
It is not totally impossible to be loved by two sets of fans who traditionally hate each other. It is rare, but it can be done. Peter Beardsley was and is a hero at both Liverpool and Everton.
Can you imagine Cristiano Ronaldo turning out for Liverpool or Steve Gerrard putting on the red of Manchester United? Would the fans of those two clubs be able to forget the past and take to the player to their hearts?
So, whilst there is no particular rivalry between Bolton and Sunderland, the fans of the Black Cats have got to try to take this man, who they will have disliked intensely, to their hearts as a new hero.
Does he suddenly become someone that you can love and admire just because he wears a shirt with the famous red and white stripes on? Will all his past sins be forgiven the first time he scores at the Stadium of Light and kisses the badge on his shirt? In truth, they probably will. It is the club we support, not the individual players. They are simply a means to an end.
It really isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t easy this fan business is it?
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