With the 2022/23 A-League season just underway, Jordan James spoke with Adam Le Fondre to discuss his early career at Stockport County, current club Sydney FC and much more.
Now 35, the striker has settled in Australia with his family and is still finding the net on a regular basis.
Q – What was your childhood like growing up in Stockport, are you still in touch with any old friends?
I had a great childhood to be fair. I wouldn’t say we were poor or rich. I was very football obsessed as a kid and my parents worked incredibly hard to give me everything that they could afford to give me. I didn’t get up to any mischief, as I forever had a ball at my feet. There was never really anything other than football in my life from a young age. I’m still friends with the majority of my mates from childhood and my best friend, who I played football with at the age of five, was the best man at my wedding.
Q – Which team did you support?
I’ve always been a Manchester United fan. I was born into it, my dad is a massive United fan and all of my family are too.
Q – Who were your sporting role models or influences growing up?
I normally looked up to players who played in my position. Growing up as a United fan, it was Eric Cantona and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Also, Brazilian Ronaldo, for me he’s the best player of all time, he could destroy any defender at any moment. My parents are also huge influences on my career. My wife and children inspire me to be better as a person and as a player. Away from football, I love watching Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. I think Tiger Woods is incredible, the mental strength and resilience he has shown after his injuries and other setbacks, he’s someone that I idolise.
Q – In 2004, you made your debut for your hometown side Stockport County. What can you remember from that day?
We played Bury at home in the LDV Vans Trophy (now EFL Trophy). I started on the bench but came on in the 60th or 70th minute. I’ve still got the game on video, that’s how old the game is! The manager gave young players a chance in that competition. When I came on, I looked miles off it but I was chasing players down and full of youthful exuberance. I had a couple of chances and managed to score from 25 yards out. That kind of set the tone for me and gave me confidence that I belong there. We won 3-1 and all my family were there. It was incredible to play for my hometown club.
Q – As an ex-County player, how do you feel about the club being back in the Football League?
I know a lot of people who are still there. Dave Challinor was the captain when I was there and now he’s the manager. I’m quite close with the youth team manager too. When Mark Stott took over, he meant serious business. They have a plan going forward and I believe they will be successful with their plan of reaching the Championship again. They are so forward thinking and it’s great to have them back in the Football League. No club that size deserves to be out of the Football League.
It’s great for the town, the fans have always been there and they’ve had attendances of 6000 even in the National League. To get back into the league is incredible, there’s other big teams in non-league football like Chesterfield and Notts County. But teams can be down there for a while as Stockport fans will attest to. Now they have a great owner who is Stockport based and wants nothing but the best for them. I’m really happy for the supporters.
Q – Three years later, you moved to Rochdale. While at the club you played in the 2008 League Two Playoff final against your former club Stockport. Although the result didn’t go in your favour, what was it like to play at Wembley?
It was amazing and so early on in my career. You don’t realise until you’re at the end of your career that those opportunities don’t come around often. Maybe it was something that I took for granted when I look back now. It was an incredible achievement as Wembley is a cherished place and it’s special for a footballer to play there. I was lucky to play there twice, unfortunately I’ve not had the results, but it’s something I can look back fondly on.
Q – After prolific spells with Rochdale, then Rotherham, you signed for Reading. You played in both the Championship and Premier League for the Royals. Who was the toughest player you came up against?
It’s a difficult one, I never really felt like I was marginalised in any game or anything like that. But, I remember playing away at Chelsea, I had the ball at my feet, the next second I was on the floor chewing dirt! John Terry took me out, that’s something that has always stuck in my head. One of the best Premier League defenders had just smashed into me.
Q – This is currently your fifth season playing for Sydney FC. How did the move come about and how did you make the decision?
It’s fantastic being here and the lifestyle is a big draw. Prior to that, I was feeling that my career in England had become a bit stale. I had terrible spells with Wolves and Wigan, when I moved from Wigan to Bolton that felt like home for me. But, when we stayed up in the Championship in the very last game, I wasn’t very happy with how I was being used and wanted to play more. I felt I was good enough to do that as well.
I went into the following pre-season and did really well and felt like I was pushing to be back playing every week. It didn’t quite happen like that at the start of the new season which got me frustrated again. So, when Australia came about it was great timing on their part as I was unhappy with what was happening with me.
It was a tough decision as I have young children, it’s hard to move them away from everything they’ve ever known. My wife and I did a pros and cons list. The opportunity to come out here outweighed everything, the lifestyle, more outdoor time, better weather and Sydney promised me games and said I’d be the main man.
Q – On the field, you’ve been tremendously successful with Sydney winning the A-League twice since your arrival. What do you put your success down to?
I think it’s the culture of the club, I knew I was joining a really successful team. It was on me to ingratiate myself into that which I did. As a senior player, I’ve become one of the leaders in the dressing room and tried to drive the standards. In any successful club, you need a good culture and good pros. I give my all when I train and play and I think that’s all you can ask.
Q – As a city, how do you find living there and where would you recommend visitors check out?
I’d say all the stereotypical places like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. When people visit they want to see Bondi Beach, Manly is also a great beach. The Blue Mountains are about a 90 minute drive from the city but only a ten dollar train ride. I live five minutes from a family friendly beach called Balmoral which is also beautiful.
Q – What do you do off the pitch to relax?
Obviously spending time with my wife and kids. I also like gaming on the PS5 and spending time on the golf course, but it’s quite time consuming.
Q – Do you know what you’d like to do after you hang up your boots?
I’m under no illusion that there’s not loads of playing time left for me. I will definitely stay in football, there’s a number of roles that I like the idea of such as head of recruitment or sporting director. Or possibly, a U23 or youth team manager, something where I can improve young players.
Q – Finally, with the 2022 FIFA World Cup underway, who do you think will lift the famous gold trophy?
I did originally pick France but they’ve had a few injuries, so I’m not sure about them anymore. It could be Messi’s time to lift the World Cup. Argentina have a fantastic squad so it could be a great time for him.