When we signed Australian centre back Adrian Leijer, we had high hopes that he would be one for the future. But the former Melbourne Victory defender struggled to win a place in the side under either Lawrie Sanchez or Roy Hodgson and now the current Fulham manager has hinted at why.
In an interview with Australian programme Fox Sports FC, Hodgson admitted he was disappointed by the way in which Leijer returned from the 2008 Summer Olympics where he had been called up by the national side.
He came back from the Olympics not as fit as we thought he should have been.
We were a bit disappointed about that because he didn’t play many games at the Olympics. I think an overage player was bought in so he lost his spot.
He was away an awfully long time, from about the beginning of May, our season hadn’t even ended when he left and he didn’t come back until well after we’d started.
So to be perfectly honest it took him a couple of months to get himself back into the type of fitness that we expect our players to have. But for the last couple of months he’s been back on track and he’s working hard at his game.
Hodgson conceded that a player of Leijer’s age needs first team football, but because of the outstanding performances of Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes at the heart of a mean Fulham defence this season he is unlikely to get it at Craven Cottage. The Fulham manager thinks that loaning Leijer out to a side prepared to offer him first team football might be the best option for the 23 year old’s development.
What he needs now is games and it’s important for him if we can’t give him those games to find somewhere where he can get games, either on loan or if necessary to find a club that’s prepared to really put him in the spotlight.
He’s not a young player, of course he’s young but he’s not academy age. We regard young players as the 18, 19, maximum 20 year olds.
Really we think that a player of 23 should be playing regular first team football. We can’t offer it to him here at the moment but we’re pleased with him. He’s a very, very good character. He’s a good player but he needs to play.
Hodgson also spoke about his happiness at securing the signing of Leijer’s compatriot Mark Schwarzer. He revealed, as he has before, that Schwarzer, who was out of contract in the summer at Middlesbrough, had several offers but the presence of the highly rated goalkeeping coach Mike Kelly helped to swing the balance in Fulham’s favour. Hodgson also admitted that he was watching at a couple more Aussies at the recently friendly with South Africa at Loftus Road. He mentioned that he had, as reports suggested, been interested in Vincent Grella before he signed for Blackburn and that he had many scouting reports on the promise of Mark Bresciano.