Adam Le Fondre has always chosen the hard road.
Perhaps that’s why the 31-year-old marksman now finds himself spearheading Sydney FC’s new-era rebuild under Steve Corica.
The task of rivalling, let alone bettering the achievements of those who came before at the Harbour City is not one for the faint-hearted.
But as Sydney enter the new Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season with a target above their heads, Le Fondre is relishing the challenge.
“It was one of the reasons I was attracted here,” he told www.aleague.com.au.
“I’ve come here to make an impact on the league and I think I’m going to do that.
“I don’t think you can top [Sydney's recent achievements] it. I think you build on top of it and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Le Fondre’s assertive and stylish confidence has already proven a big hit for the defending Hyundai A-League Premiers – as seen in the FFA Cup Quarter Finals, where he set up two goals for Trent Buhagiar and found the net himself.
In that 120 minute debut against Avondale, Le Fondre offered a snapshot of what he does best. The pocket-sized predator boasts a prolific record across England’s four top tiers, and his goals per minute ratio in the Premier League stands alongside a cast of English football’s greatest forwards.
A rare goalscoring talent
It should come as no surprise that Le Fondre’s appetite for goals was earmarked at the age of seven as a junior for Stockport County.
Le Fondre would progress through the youth ranks at the Hatters before making his senior debut in 2004, sparking a Jamie Vardy-esque rise through the English divisions.
It's a mountain that most footballers are unable to climb, but 'Alfie' knew he was up to the task.
“Sometimes you start higher up and sometimes you have to do it the hard way,” Le Fondre recalls.
“I had offers come in from bigger clubs but as a young boy I didn’t feel that was the right way for me to go.
“I didn’t want to be hampered by limited opportunities to play… I wanted to play all the time.”
In an era of first class facilities and education for academy footballers, and one in which youth talents are stockpiled and swiftly discarded, Le Fondre’s story from rags to Premier League riches with Reading in 2012 is one of rare professional drive.
The striker had chances to trade the likes of Rochdale and Rotherham United for greener pastures.
Championship heavyweights Derby County and Leicester City came calling after Le Fondre fired in 25 goals to spur Rotherham to the League Two play-off final in 2010, but he chose to stay on.
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“I was fully vindicated really because by the time I was 21 I was probably on about 150 appearances... it was just something I had to do and I just knew that was my path to get myself to where I wanted to be.
“They were great grounding points to show how hard you have to work to get to the top really – you probably have to work double as hard as people who start up there.”
A Premier League goalscorer
Le Fondre’s industry was rewarded when Reading entered the promised land for the 2012/13 Premier League season.
He scored 12 goals for the Royals and became a fan favourite, but the Madejski Stadium outfit were ultimately sent packing back to the Championship.
“On a personal level it was an amazing experience because I was playing against people I could only dream of playing against,” Le Fondre says.
“I remember playing against John Terry, and I must have been on the pitch for about 3 minutes and he scythed me down just as a welcome.
“It shows how hard you have to work to get up there. It gives you the appetite to work even harder.”