El Hadji Diouf’s political power and Pascal Chimbonda’s wink: Dean Saunders talks his time in charge of Doncaster Rovers

When he took charge of Doncaster Rovers, Dean Saunders probably did not think that he would hold the political stability of a west African nation in his hands.

By Liam Hoden
Friday, 29th May 2020, 7:00 am
Dean Saunders with El Hadji Diouf
Dean Saunders with El Hadji Diouf

But in dealing with El Hadji Diouf, the Welshman was faced with such dilemmas while in the Rovers hotseat.

Saunders was a guest this week on a live episode of podcast UndrTheCosh, presented by former Rovers striker Chris Brown and ex-loanee John Parkin.

He had plenty of anecdotes from his time at the Keepmoat, including his penchant for taking part in practice games on Fridays and rating the performances of his players.

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And he only had good words for the club he took charge of in September 2011, sparking the start of the ‘experiment’ which saw the likes of Diouf and Chimbonda arrive in Doncaster.

ON ENJOYING HIS TIME AT ROVERS

“It’s a unique club. Dick Watson, Terry Bramall and John Ryan owned the club, all of them multimillionaires.

“John Ryan was a great chairman. He loved football.

“I really enjoyed working for that club.

“There was some other clubs where I didn’t know if I was being told the truth. I got told the truth at Doncaster.

“I’ll always hold that place dear in my heart. I loved working for them.”

ON DEALING WITH EL HADJI DIOUF

“He was a likeable rogue.

“You know you always get foreign players wanting to go to see their physio in France or in Italy? They’re looking for a reason to get home.

“Dioufy came into my office one day and said ‘Gaffer, I need to go to Senegal.’

“I said ‘What do you mean, you can’t go to Senegal, we’ve got a game on Saturday.’

“He said ‘Yeah but, it’s Monday, I’ll be back for Friday.’

“I said ‘Dioufy, you can’t miss four day’s training.’

“He said ‘Gaffer, let me explain it to you. It’s the election in Senegal, and the president, if he doesn’t have The Diouf sat net to him, he’s going to lose the election. If I don’t go back, Senegal will collapse. They need The Diouf. I need to go.’

“What can I say to that?”

ON JOINING IN FRIDAY TRAINING AND HANDING OUT MARKS

“That’s the best part of being a manager - Friday morning, when there’s no pressure on and you can get involved and enjoy the banter.

“It’s the end of the week, Saturday is game on.

“The best part of it is being on the training ground. The rest of it, I don’t miss the politics, I don’t miss all the aggravation that comes with it. I miss getting on the training pitch with the players and trying to come up with a plan to win.

“I had a particularly good season that season. I never got much lower than a nine out of ten - it was only five minutes each way.

“Those games were fun - and it gave me the chance to put the boot in on some people when I was giving out the marks.

“For example, Chris Brown - three out of ten, looked a bit stiff.”

ON REPRIMANDING PASCAL CHIMBONDA“I can remember saying to Pascal, ‘If I have a go at you, don’t take it personal. I might not be aiming it at you, I might be aiming it at someone who can’t take criticism because they’ll go under. So if I have a go at you, don’t take it personal.’

“Well, in this one game, he was shocking.

“I came in at half time and went ‘Pascal, what are you playing at?’

“He just starting winking at me!

“He was winking at me as if to say ‘I know you don’t mean it.’

“But I did mean it. I was raging!”

To watch the episode of UndrTheCosh featuring Dean Saunders CLICK HERE

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