“You don’t often get a better person than Adrian Leijer,” said Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick when the defender joined Fulham from Victory in August, 2007.
A physical and competitive centre back, Leijer had been picking up rave reviews in the A-League and the move was no more than he deserved according to former manager, Merrick; “He’s an outstanding athlete, and also a very mature young man. This is a wonderful opportunity for him to develop his career at the highest level. It really is a great story, and well deserved, too.”
Leijer’s performances at the heart of the Reserves’ defence since making the move to London have only enhanced his reputation and, having recovered from a knee injury, Leijer is hoping to continue his progress.
“I’ve been carrying the injury for about 11 months and it’s been something that I’ve been able to put up with but it got to the point where something had to be done,” he said. “The medical staff here have been brilliant. I’ve seen all the right people and had an injection and it’s fine now. This is the best it’s felt in 12 months, so I can’t wait to get back out there.
“This has been a big move for me and it has opened my eyes to the world of football over here. To be honest I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity the Club has given me. Now that I’ve had a taste of it, I just want to keep working hard and enjoy my time even more – which I hope will eventually lead to a place in the First Team.”
The transfer to Fulham saw Leijer fulfil a long-held ambition and whilst moving from the other side of the globe is as big a move as you’re likely to see in the world of football, the affable defender was determined to make it work.
“I think a few weeks ago I read about a Scottish guy getting homesick in England and wanting to go home – I couldn’t really believe it to be honest,” he said. “But it is difficult, the first three months here were the toughest for me and I did find it hard. But now it feels like home and at the end of the day, I’m a footballer and everyone wants to play football in England.
“I am realistic; I didn’t sign here expecting to walk straight into the First Team. You come here to learn form the more experienced players and I’ve got to be patient. I’m sure that if I keep my attitude right I will get my chance.
“I’ve mainly been working under Billy McKinlay, which I’ve enjoyed a lot. The intensity of his sessions are much higher than what I was used to. I’ve also been working under the Manager and he’s brought in a few of his players, which you would expect. So I have to get back out there and do well for the Reserves and take it from there.
“It’s good to be around players like Dejan Stefanovic and Aaron Hughes. You can learn a lot just watching them week-in week-out at the games. Billy has also pointed out a few things to me and those are areas which I take a lot more notice of on the pitch.”
Indeed, Leijer’s performances for Billy McKinlay’s side have also attracted attention from a number of clubs interested in securing his services on loan.
“A couple of options came up but this knee thing put me back a bit - but now that I’m fit again it might be an option,” Leijer explained. “I’ve also got a couple of games with the Australian team coming up so that’s something extra to look forward to, and with the Olympics coming up, I won’t have an off-season which is a good thing for a player my age.”