ADRIAN Leijer loves living in London with its big-city buzz, West End theatres, endless football on television and a stream of fellow Australians he meets and befriends in the Old Dart.
But there is one big thing missing: first-team football.
Two seasons after leaving Melbourne Victory, Leijer is yet to make his first-team debut for Fulham and can count just four appearances for Norwich City while on loan at the end of last campaign.
Even then Leijer had only one start with the Canaries in a relegation battle they failed to win, dropping to League One, with Norwich’s two best players occupying his centre-back position.
The 23-year-old has been training hard, playing spasmodic reserve-team games and trying to stay positive – as in his first season when he was on the Fulham bench for several games, including an away trip to Liverpool.
But when manager Roy Hodgson took over near the end of the 2008 season and steered Fulham away from the Premier League relegation zone, he also steered away from Leijer, bringing in fresh signings and strengthening a squad that finished seventh last season.
“That’s the way it goes,” Leijer said.
“The first year I really enjoyed it and made some good progress, but the second year was a setback.
“At least I’m in Europe and getting an idea what football in Europe is like. I think I’ve improved and learnt a lot from the intensity of training and games.
”(The Premier League) is a massive step-up. Maybe I have to drop down a league and get some more experience and work hard at my game and in a few years I’ll be ready.”
With one year left on his Fulham deal, Leijer needs to start playing.
He would return to Norwich, though the city can’t quite match London, where Leijer has an apartment in the shadows of the Wimbledon tennis complex.
“I really enjoyed it there and I was more comfortable and felt like I fitted in really well,” Leijer said of his time with Norwich.
“At the end of the year I will weigh up my options and see what the future holds.
“I’m not going into the season thinking it’s my last year in England and I’ll go home.
” I’m going into this season thinking I’ve got one more year on my contract and hopefully I can make something happen or get a decent move somewhere else.”
Leijer receives constant support from family, friends and Victory coach Ernie Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat, and he’s hoping his perseverance pays off in tomorrow night’s friendly at Etihad Stadium.
“It’s very exciting,” Leijer said.
“I don’t know how much part I’ll play, but I’m hoping I will get some game time.”