From the moment he started warming up in the first half of yesterday’s comfortable victory over Shrewsbury Town, the sight of El Hadji Diouf in a Leeds United shirt had fans divided.

After the tunnel brawl he instigated at Elland Road last season, some fans were left in stunned silence by his arrival, unsure as to how they felt about one of football’s most controversial players representing the club they love.

Others were more decisive with their analysis, the Kop in particular being an area of polarised opinion. Whilst some fans booed, hurled abuse and attempted to start chants in reference to Diouf spitting at supporters (on three separate occasions no less), others decided that, irrespective of history, he was a Leeds player now and should therefore be supported and cheered.

Even Ken Bates struggles to divide the Kop, an area of Elland Road where Bates Out chants are the norm and few dare to stray off-script. Diouf had no such problems.

Diouf clearly has work to do if he’s to unite the support behind him, but Neil Warnock seems convinced of his ability to do so and is enjoying having someone in the squad more controversial than himself, joking after that the game that “It’ll take the pressure off me as well because [the fans will] have a go at him, not me!”

Myself, I was in the stunned silence camp. I’d travelled to Leeds the night before and had only found out about the deal when I met friends in The Prince Of Wales before the match. I’d wrongly assumed that they were talking about news that he’d been on trial with the club the week previous and had no idea he was in the squad until I saw the line-up inside Elland Road.

There’s very little about El Hadji Diouf to like, he’s a horrible human being and someone I had no problems booing when he was wearing an opposition shirt. It’s a little different however when he’s on the field in a Leeds United shirt. However deplorable his antics in the past have been, he’s now representing my club. I couldn’t forgive and forget, but I couldn’t boo either.

If we’re to judge him purely on his performances as a footballer, Diouf may well turn out to be a good signing. He’ll never be forgiven for past indiscretions, nor should he be, but if he knuckles down and lets his football make the headlines for once, he may well win the naysayers over.

With a list of controversies longer than the former clubs section of his CV, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be times this season when we regret giving him the chance – we can only hope that the times when we’re glad we did offer him a lifeline, outnumber the times we wish we hadn’t.

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