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Leeds United: Robbie Rogers targets Whites fast track INTERVIEW

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  • by Phil Hay
 

Robbie Rogers has vowed to “make a mark” on Leeds United and English football as the Home Office prepares to rule on his work permit application.

The USA international should learn the fate of his proposed move to Elland Road in the next 48 hours, with his application expected to be heard tomorrow, and he is crossing his fingers for a fresh start in his career.

Rogers left America’s Major League Soccer scene to take up a contract in England knowing that his involvement with the USA’s national team fell short of the criteria specified by the government for work permit applications involving non-EU players.

The 24-year-old has not appeared in the required 75 per cent of competitive USA games in the past two years, but United are ready to plead his case after finalising terms with Rogers last week.

The transfer from MLS side Columbus Crew is subject to Rogers receiving a permit, but the winger’s application will be supported by what Leeds manager Simon Grayson called “a lot of glowing endorsements of Robbie”.

Prime among those is confirmation from USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann that Rogers is likely to be a fixture in America’s squad for the foreseeable future, and Leeds were given encouragement last Wednesday when Southampton secured a permit for Japanese striker Tadanari Lee.

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Lee had similarly failed to play in 75 per cent of Japan’s recent competitive matches but the Home Office accepted his claim on appeal. In a statement, Southampton said: “The authorities agreed that the international star is an exceptional talent that will enhance the game in this country, and at the age of 26 has plenty to offer over many years.”

Rogers was unavailable for Leeds’ 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday but Grayson is planning to integrate him into his first-team squad as soon as his transfer is complete, and the player said: “I hope it works out. It’s been an awesome experience so far and I’ll be excited to get going.

“I’m here because I want to make a mark in English football and continue to play for the national team. I’m definitely not here to enjoy the weather in Leeds. I want to test myself, prove myself and show that I can help the club out.

“It’s all about the work permit now and I think I’ve got a good chance, but it’s hard to know how these things work. I’ve talked to guys who got work permits with fewer international caps than I’ve got but we’ll see what happens.”

Rogers trained with Leeds before Christmas – a successful trial which convinced Grayson to pursue the signing – and a two-and-a-half year deal was struck with him shortly after he attended the Emirates Stadium for United’s FA Cup defeat to Arsenal.

The former Heerenveen wide man had a guaranteed contract available at Columbus Crew but he rejected the offer in order to complete a move to England which numerous other American footballers have made before him.

Rogers revealed that he discussed the challenges of the English game with Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and Fulham striker Clint Dempsey, both of whom are USA internationals, and Grayson said that former Tottenham striker Klinsmann had also been a key influence in Rogers’ decision to sign for Leeds.

Rogers said: “Jurgen’s a great guy and a great coach. He’s got so much knowledge of the game and to be involved with his team over the past six months has been quite an experience.

“I’ll have to work very hard to stay in the national team and prove myself in every game I get called up for, but being at Leeds will push me forward.

“I had the opportunity to stay in MLS and it would have been very comfortable for me. I’d have been able to stay close to my family, but I’ve grown up watching English and European soccer. I felt that this was the right time to take a chance and challenge myself as a player and a person.

“Moving to another country isn’t always easy but I think I’m ready for it.

“I’m friends with guys like Clint and Tim and I’ve talked to them about the fitness you need to have, and the speed of the game – the difference between here and the MLS.

“It’s quite different here and it’ll take time to adjust but I think that if you can prove yourself here and be successful then you can say you’ve tested yourself at the highest level.”

Rogers’ position is one of the few at Leeds which is adequately filled if not oversubscribed.

United signed Andros Townsend on loan from Tottenham at the start of the month and Robert Snodgrass returned from an appendix operation at Palace on Saturday, little more than two weeks after having emergency surgery.

The MLS season finished in November and Rogers is in the process of building up his match fitness but a successful application for a work permit would allow him to begin the battle for selection in earnest ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ipswich.

“There are great players in my position but I’m here to push them,” he said. “I’m an outside midfielder and pretty much two-footed.

“I think my best quality is my pace – going at players one-on-one. I hope I can show that at Elland Road and I try to work hard. I just need a bit of time to get fit.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work with the physios and I’ve been doing extra after training and more in the gym. But I like that and it means I’ll be ready soon.

“There’s a great bunch of guys here and they’ve been very welcoming.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and I like it in England – the players now how to have a laugh but once you get out on the training field, the whole thing is so competitive and serious.

“That’s the best way to be and the best way to work. It’s been a pleasure.”

Grayson sang Rogers’ praises last week and voiced optimism about his work permit application, saying: “We fought off a lot of competition to get him. We’ve got a lot of glowing endorsements and that will help.”

 

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