‘Abuse from kids at Millwall made me tough enough for anything’ - Hibs star ready for Rangers atmosphere

Veteran Hibs striker loves the aggro of big away games with Rangers next up at Ibrox
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He missed the madness. Grew fond, by dint of enforced absence, of what he calls the “effing and jeffing” that makes football on these islands such an uproarious pastime.

As he prepares to represent Hibs at Ibrox this afternoon, then, don’t expect Adam Le Fondre to start worrying about working in a hostile environment for a couple of hours. It won’t exactly be a new experience for the veteran forward.

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“When I first moved to Reading, we played Millwall away, and I was on the bench,” said the Englishman, grinning at his own recollection of a memorable day out at the New Den back in March of 2012.

“As you can imagine, warming up down the side of the pitch, being small, I was getting abused. I won’t repeat what they were saying, obviously.

“I turned round to see who was giving me it – and it was little kids. There are these 12-year-olds giving me abuse and their dads are high-fiving them! I just thought: ‘Oh my God …’

“I managed to score in the game, the winner, and I ran down the touchline gesturing at them to shut up. And then I thought: ‘Why have I done that? They’re going to batter me!’

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“That was really the most hostile, the most vitriol and spew being thrown at you. And West Ham was similar.”

Ninja fashion was in style as Le Fondre trained in stormy conditions yesterday - preparing for a tempest at Ibrox today. Ninja fashion was in style as Le Fondre trained in stormy conditions yesterday - preparing for a tempest at Ibrox today.
Ninja fashion was in style as Le Fondre trained in stormy conditions yesterday - preparing for a tempest at Ibrox today.

Former Premier League and Championship stalwart Le Fondre, who returned to the UK in the summer after five years spent in Australia and India, is relishing the sort of atmosphere generated at away grounds in Scotland.

The 36-year-old, who played a vital role in helping Hibs fight back from 2-0 down to earn a draw at Tynecastle in the last game before the international break, said: “In India we had no crowds because of Covid. And Australia is not so much like that.

“There is a little bit of rivalry when Western Sydney played Sydney. That’s quite a big deal. But it’s not quite as much hatred. It’s almost more respectful in a way.

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“They’re still going to call you eff and jeff, blah-blah-blah, but it’s not like you look at the person and think: ‘Bloody hell, you actually mean it!’ In Australia, it’ll be like: ‘Eff and jeff … erm, all right mate?’ Then they’ll give you a thumbs up. All right pal, it’s not serious.

“The boys have just told me it’s a great atmosphere at Ibrox. This is something I’m excited about. It whets my appetite, playing in these sorts of games. Because they’re historical, great clubs with a massive fan based.

“I’ve watched games from there over the years, the big derby, just thinking: ‘Wow, they’re so passionate.’ That is what Scottish and English football have over different brands of football across the world – the fans are second to none.”

Relishing the chance to prove that he’s no one-trick pony under the more fluid 4-4-2 system implemented by Nick Montgomery, Le Fondre admits he spent most of his career selfishly hunting opportunities to put the ball in the net. As a striker, he still doesn’t mind his career being defined by goals.

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Revealing that this might just be a hereditary trait running through the Le Fondre family, he pinpointed one famous performance for Reading in April of 2012 as he explained: “I’m more about the importance of the goal. I remember scoring a great one away to Southampton, for Reading, at their new stadium.

“It was a top of the table clash towards the end of the season, I managed to come and score two in a 3-1 win. Just the atmosphere of that game will live with me forever.

“My dad probably watches that goal back maybe twice a week on YouTube. When I go round, he’ll put it on and ask: ‘Have you seen this?’

“I’m like: ‘Yeah Dad, I was there. Yeah, the atmosphere was great. I was there!’

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“If I chose a goal to define me, it would be one of those, just for the whole importance of it, the stadium, the scene and what it meant for the club.

“Of course I care about goals, my life has been about scoring goals. But I think what’s been labelled at me throughout my career is I’ve just been a goal-scorer. Now I’m proving that’s not the case.

“That’s because of the way we play. In previous teams, all that’s been asked of me was to just score goals, and I’m more than happy just to do that.

“But here I’ve been able to show I’m a little bit more than just a goal-scorer. I tend to be an alright footballer as well when I get the ball to feet.

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‘When I came through, a long, long time ago, it would always be two up front - a big man and a little man. The big man would beat everyone up for me and I’d run around him.

“Who doesn’t love scoring goals as a striker? It’s the best thing you can do. I had to showcase that to get my career.

“It’s a great role to have, just scoring goals, and I’ve loved doing that, but it is nice to show I can play football as well.

“I’m forever working on my craft and on how to become a better player and more effective. And you do value assists. But it’s not something I’m going to look back on and think: ‘Bloody hell, I had a great season, I had five assists ...’”

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