Australian defender Adrian Leijer is adapting to life in London as he ponders how to break into Premier League side Fulham’s first team.
He left Melbourne Victory in August in a deal valued at about $500,000.
It was a move that even surprised him.
“I expected to play for Melbourne but Fulham obviously liked me as a player,” Leijer said yesterday. “Things have worked out well for me and Melbourne Victory,”
Fulham gave Leijer No. 37 and he has been playing in the reserves since he arrived in London a month ago.
“I’ve signed for three years,” the defender said.
“I’m more of a development player. I’m not expecting to go straight from the A-League to the Premier League.
“Fulham is setting up a group of players about my age and, hopefully, will develop them into Premier League players.
“Obviously I intend to put my head down and work hard.
“Whether I start pushing for the first team is, I suppose, up to me and my performances in the reserves.”
His performances with the Olyroos, where he is a key figure in the national under-23 team’s bid to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, will also be monitored.
Leijer was in Australia for the Olyroo wins over North Korea (1-0) and Lebanon (3-0) this month, which put Australia level at the top of group A with Iraq (seven points in three matches).
Only the group winner qualifies for the Olympics, but Leijer is confident Australia will get to Beijing.
“The Olyroos have a really good squad,” Leijer said.
“I’m sure if we can get through this qualification, we can expect some really big things in Beijing.
“We’ve had some good results, but the Iraq game at home (in November)is going to be the match that decides the group. A lot of time and effort will be spent on that game.”
Before then, Leijer will concentrate on settling in London.
“It’s obviously hard moving away from your family and stuff,” he said. ‘I’ve been in a hotel for a month.
“Moving into my own apartment will make life a bit easier and more comfortable.
“My girlfriend comes over in November, so that will help me get a bit more settled.
“Once everything off the field is good, it will show on the field.”
Leijer was named Australia’s young player of the year after helping Melbourne Victory win the A-League grand final last season.