The Monday Profile: Adam le Fondre
(Written with considerable assistance from Scarf.)
After my team’s brief sojourn in the Championship last season, I’m now back to watching The Football League Show as an interested neutral. There are a few things you can guarantee happening every week: Manish Bhasin will begin speaking to the wrong camera; Mark Clemmit will be seen acting out some forced jollity with a bemused manager; Steve Claridge or Leroy Rosenior (whoever’s on that week) will overuse their catchphrase – “There’s no doubt about that” and “Absolutely” respectively; and when the lights go down at the end, Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes will leave her desk perch and totter over on impossibly high heels to join the boys.
And, to add to that, every week seems to feature footage of Rotherham striker Adam le Fondre scoring.
The lower leagues are full of forwards with colourful names – Oldham’s Sunderland loanee Oumare Tounkara and Rochdale’s Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, for a start – and Glenville Adam J. le Fondre sounds rather classy and refined for the gritty Yorkshire town whose inhabitants Jamie Oliver felt needed lecturing on how to feed themselves properly. And in truth he’s not a local – hailing instead from across the Pennines and the barely more glamorous town of Stockport. Born on my ninth birthday, “Alfie” (as he’s affectionately known) comes from a family of County fans – Hatters supporter and Two Unfortunates contributor Scarf reliably informs me that his brother Dan regularly posts on the messageboard and his dad likes nothing better than to banter about the club when giving people lifts in his taxi.
Le Fondre began his career with his hometown club, forcing his way into the first-team picture after some eye-catching goalscoring exploits for the youth team in the 2004/5 season. Unfortunately for him, that year was something of an annus horribilis for Stockport, whose relegation was confirmed by April and who went on to finish bottom of League One by some distance. Le Fondre showed much promise, but was too often bullied off the ball by burly centre-halves and found the hoof ‘n’ hope tactics of the time unsuited to his own style.
A squad player for County the following two seasons, he chipped in with a few goals, including a brace in the vital win over Grimsby in 2005/6 to stave off the spectre of successive relegations, but never made it into double figures and also had something of an attitude problem – probably the consequence of being worshipped by a family for whom he could, it seemed, do no wrong. Finding himself fifth choice behind strikers who had helped the club break a Football League record by winning nine consecutive matches without conceding a goal, a disgruntled le Fondre reportedly fell out with boss Jim Gannon and in January 2007 both parties felt a move would be beneficial, the striker joining north-west rivals Rochdale on loan.
Four goals in seven matches were enough to convince the Dale to make the deal permanent. While County were prepared to let him go, they were at least sufficiently convinced of his talent to insist upon a 25% sell-on clause – an astute decision, even if selling him in the first place hasn’t proven so smart. Le Fondre featured in all 46 league games of the 2007/8 season, top-scoring with 16 goals as Rochdale made it to the League Two Play-Off Final at Wembley – where, as fate would have it, their opponents were Stockport. To the immense relief of Hatters fans, le Fondre was anonymous and hauled off well before the end as their side ran out 3-2 winners. For le Fondre, more heartache followed in 2008/9, as he struck 18 league goals to propel Rochdale to the play-offs once more but promotion remained elusive.
That summer brought a move to Rochdale’s League Two rivals Rotherham, le Fondre claiming: “I needed a new challenge, with a progressive club that had high ambitions and in Rotherham I’ve found the perfect club to open a new chapter of my career with“. Fine words indeed, but words that came back to bite him savagely in the arse in 2009/10. His best ever tally of 25 goals (including four plundered in the extraordinary 6-4 win over Cheltenham, the second time he’s scored four in a game in his senior career) wasn’t enough to secure League One football for the Millers as they crashed to defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge in the Play-Off Final, while his unprogressive, unambitious former employers claimed the third automatic promotion spot, finally hauling themselves out of the fourth tier at the 36th time of asking.
Scarf attributes le Fondre’s development to four factors: first-team experience and the nous that comes with it; hard work on his all-round game; maturity fostered by having left his family, friends and home town behind; and time spent in the gym to beef up and become harder to knock off the ball. Two Unfortunates follower and Rotherham fan David Rawson rates him “an absolute model pro and real team player“, while pointing out that on Yorkshire Radio team-mate Kevin Ellison referred to him as “a fat c**t“…
Of course, all of this has not gone unnoticed, either by scouts or by other websites. Having clung onto him over the summer, the Millers have reaped the benefit of 16 goals so far this season – but it seems inconceivable that January will pass without someone in League One or even the Championship making a move. Prolific strikers with razor-sharp finishing are a precious commodity, particularly at this stage of the season when one could be the catalyst for a play-off push or an ascent out of trouble. There are certainly precedents for lower league forwards making a good fist of it at a higher level – two of whom have already starred in this very feature. When Steve Morison stepped from Stevenage to Millwall, for instance, the goals continued to flow. Fellow hotshot Brett Pitman, meanwhile, had a slow start after swapping League Two for the Championship with Bristol City, but then embarked on a run of scoring seven times in seven matches. Le Fondre, you feel, would also have the ability to adjust.
The French phrase “le coup de foudre” means “bolt of lightning“, and over the past four seasons plenty of League Two clubs have experienced “le coup de Fondre“. “Le coup de foudre” also translates less literally as “love at first sight” – which, appropriately enough, was the reaction of Rochdale and Rotherham fans when he first appeared for their sides. Will he soon have a new set of fans swooning over him?