Leijer a chance for Fury

Adrian Leijer's could pull on a Melbourne Victory shirt as soon as Saturday, with coach Ernie Merrick to assess the defender's readiness when he steps of the plane from England in Townsville on Saturday morning.

Adrian Leijer's could pull on a Melbourne Victory shirt as soon as Saturday, with coach Ernie Merrick to assess the defender's readiness when he steps of the plane from England in Townsville on Saturday morning.

Melbourne announced on Friday it had signed Leijer to a three-year-deal, bringing him back from Fulham to the club where he won a championship and premiership in 2006-07. While Merrick does not want to rush his new signing, he could be set to get some game time against North Queensland Fury.

"I'm assured that the paper work has all been done. It will really come down to how he feels when he gets off the plane. I think he's arriving early on Saturday morning. Whether he was playing or not, he wanted to be a part of the squad up in Townsville. I like that sort of enthusiasm," Merrick said.

"It will depend on how he looks coming off the plane and given he's travelling business class, there might be an opportunity to have a run."

Merrick confirmed that Matthew Kemp was likely to miss the game with his wife set to give birth, while Kevin Muscat is still at least three weeks away with his hamstring injury. That means that either Leijer or Steve Pace were likely to start in the XI.

But the coach said the club had never particularly pursued a defender, but was delighted to get Leijer back.

"I never had any great concerns about covering defensively for Kevin. I'm certainly happy with Kempy and we had a couple of other players who could have come in. To have Adrian Leijer available in the short term as well as the long-term is just a great thing for Melbourne Victory football club," he said.

Merrick revealed the deal has happened in a very short space of time with Leijer expressing a desire to return home after two year without an EPL game for Fulham.

"It really only happened in the last 72 hours. Up until a couple of weeks ago when I last spoke to Adrian, I was trying to talk him into staying on but he wasn't very happy at Fulham. He felt he was restricted in the quality of football he could play," he said.

"He's certainly in good condition. He's been training hard and to do a pre-season with a Premier League club is fantastic. But in the last 72 hours he decided he definitely wanted to come back and we were the club he wanted to come back to."

Merrick said that while Leijer has not played a lot of football in the past two years at Craven Cottage, he believes he has improved greatly as a player.

"I've met him a couple of times on his return during his break. He certainly, physically, looks terrific. He left as a 21-year old and now he's two years more mature, he's physically very strong. He tells me that some of the football he's been playing in the reserves has been very good," he said.

"He's certainly matured as a person, and I think he's got excellent leadership capabilities."

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