Neill makes last-ditch World Cup move

Socceroo Lucas Neill has ramped up his bid for game-time ahead of the 2014 World Cup by penning a one-month loan deal with Championship club Doncaster Rovers.

The 36-year-old has managed only six minutes of game-time since joining Watford in February in a deal which runs to the end of the season.

Neill has been an unused substitute in recent matches, with the returns of fellow defenders Tommie Hoban, Essaid Belkalem, Fitz Hall and Joel Ekstrand harming his first-team chances. 

Watford boss Beppe Sannino last week talked up Neill’s experience and leadership among the group but that hasn’t been enough to earn game-time.

Neill’s loan deal with Rovers runs to April 22, offering him the potential of six matches to earn game-time before Australia coach Ange Postecoglou names his World Cup squad.

Doncaster are currently 20th in the Championship and Neill could debut for the club in Saturday’s clash with Leeds.

Rovers boss Paul Dickov played with Neill during their time at Blackburn, and he told the club's website: “Lucas is a fantastic signing for Doncaster Rovers, he is a top professional and has captained Australia in the World Cup.

“I played with him at Blackburn and I know him very well, he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the game, he is a great person both on and off the field. Lucas is as fit now as I have ever seen him, which is credit to him and his attitude.

“There were a lot of other Championship clubs interested in signing him, but he wanted to come to Doncaster, I’d like to thank everyone across the board getting the deal over the line.”

Neill, who captained Australia during the World Cup qualifiers under Holger Osieck, was absent from Postecoglou's squad to face Ecuador earlier this month.

The veteran is facing a battle to make the squad for Brazil, with Postecoglou suggesting he's looking to the future.

The talented Matt Spiranovic and Curtis Good started in the centre of defence against Ecuador, while in that match Alex Wilkinson replaced the latter, who is battling a hip problem which may affect his World Cup hopes.

Australia have already lost defender Rhys Williams for Brazil due to an Achilles injury.

China-based defender Ryan McGowan, 24, and 22-year-old Trent Sainsbury, who is on the mend following a knee injury, are other central defensive options for Postecoglou.

However, there is a school of thought Postecoglou will opt for an experienced central defender, with Neill battling Sydney FC's Sasa Ognenovski for that role.

The Australia coach has made it clear that anyone selected needs to be playing regularly at club level in the lead-up to the World Cup.

1 comment