Adam Le Fondre reveals why Hibs move was 'a natural progression' as striker sends message to naysayers
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The former Easter Road boss was keen to reunite with the striker in the Capital in July 2018 after linking up with him at Bolton but a deal couldn’t be thrashed out, and Le Fondre eventually left the Trotters to join Sydney FC. Five years later, he’s sitting in the media room at the club’s Ormiston training complex, reflecting on the way things work out in football.
"I had a great time with Lenny even though I only spent three months with him,” the 36-year-old says. “I loved him. He was volatile! But he was my sort of person, he really got me as a player. He brought some of the best football out of me in a short period of time so I was really eager to work with him. When he came calling we spoke a lot, but at that time the financial side couldn’t quite work out.”
It’s fair to say Le Fondre kept Hibs filed away at the back of his mind as a potential future destination, although a European debut in his mid-thirties has come as a bit of an unexpected, but welcome, surprise.
"At 36 and coming out of Sydney I was looking around thinking, ‘realistically who’s going to take a 36-year-old striker to go and play in Europe?’ I’m not going to get that opportunity unless I’m going out to Poland or somewhere in eastern Europe away from my family. I didn’t want that so Hibs was a great opportunity and a real good thing to keep me enthused in football,” he explains. “I have been close to moving to Scotland a few times, and I feel like it was quite a natural progression for me to come here.
“The drive and hunger in me to win games and score goals in Europe is something that will never go away. As you get older you have to set goals and challenges – that’s what keeps me young. I always want to try and get better and do new things because ultimately I might never get this opportunity again. The special moments are few and far between. I’ve been lucky that I’ve won titles in England and India and Australia. I’ve been very successful, and I want to keep being successful. It’s great that I’ve played in the Asian Champions League. Now I have the opportunity to come home to the UK and play in the Scottish Premiership and Europe which I’m really excited about.”
The eventual move to Hibs came about when Brian McDermott sold the idea to Le Fondre. The pair worked together at Reading a decade ago and McDermott rekindled their relationship last year – a good 12 months before he took the director of football job at Hibs – before selling the idea of an Easter Road switch a few weeks back. Now, Le Fondre may not be the all-action number nine that Hibs fans crave but make no mistake, he isn’t here to warm the bench or just be an older, wiser head in the dressing room – even if that will form an important part of his remit.
“I want to play. If I’m playing well I want to be selected, and if I am scoring goals then I guess the manager is going to pick me,” he says with a grin. “As an older player there is going to be responsibility on my shoulders to help the younger players as well to pass on a little extra knowledge about how to improve them and get them into better positions. When I was younger I didn’t really have that and I think if I had had someone like that I would have been a better player at 21, 22 than the 26-year-old who started to discover things and work on how to actually play football at that time.”
He also noticed some of the grumbles about his age when his signing was confirmed but insists he is more than happy to prove people wrong.
“There might be some naysayers about my age but one thing for certain throughout my career is I have always scored goals,” he continues. “I’m not scared about what’s going to happen here. I know there will be doubters and I know I need to prove people wrong; I’ve done that my whole career. When the opportunity to come to Hibs arose I was really enthused about it. I didn’t really want to go back to England because I was a little disillusioned with the football there. I wanted to try something different.
“People look at a 36-year-old signing and think, ‘he was close to signing years ago so we don’t want him now’ but I know for a fact that I will score goals. If the service is there, that’s a given. I have to understand my role in the system and in the squad as well. I have no qualms about what is going to happen and I’m really excited for this European adventure.”
Although not an Australian like Lewis Miller or Jimmy Jeggo, Le Fondre spent enough time in the A-League to get to know several players well, including some who ended up moving to Scotland before him, particularly to the Gorgie area. Unsurprisingly they have already been in touch.
“Funnily enough, Cammy Devlin messaged me straight away and said, ‘Oh, I hear you’re going to Hibs, we’ll have to catch up’ but I just replied, ‘f**k off!’ I know what he’s like, he’s a little wind-up merchant so I’m looking forward to seeing him on the pitch as well,” Le Fondre adds with a grin. “It’s a shame we have to wait until October to play them but I’m just enjoying each game as it comes and I can’t wait for the start of the season.”