Socceroo striker Adam Taggart has a plan: return to Australia next month, fix his recurring fitness issues, rest then return to London and smash pre-season at Fulham in July.
This, he hopes, will be the springboard for a vastly better club season than the one he’s almost completed in London.
In short, it's been a nightmare. He's been bedevilled by injuries since signing 10 months ago from Newcastle Jets.
The 21-year-old former Newcastle Jets Hyundai A-League Golden Boot is desperate to show Fulham his full potential after he burst onto the Socceroo scene last year, earning a seat on the plane to Brazil and playing against some of the world’s biggest names after a breakout A-League season.
But at 21, there’s still time for Taggart to return to the national team. Becoming full fit and playing regularly is the aim right now.
And with the Olyroos just one qualification tournament away from the Rio Olympics in 2016, he’s planning to make next season one to remember.
He spoke with www.socceroos.com.au from London this week…
Adam, how do you reflect on this last 12 months?
I’ve come here [to Fulham], I’ve been struggling with injuries so it’s definitely been a time to reflect on the year I had previously to that.
It [the Brazil World Cup] was an amazing experience and the exact progression I was working towards. Coming here was the next step. It would have been nice to build on that, it obviously hasn’t happened but it’s definitely been a time to look back on the last year and understand what’s happened.
At the time it’s hard to take it all in because you’re so involved in it, you just try and get on with it and do the best you can and continue to progress as a player. Especially now I’ve been injured there’s definitely been a lot of time to reflect on it.
Tell me about your time at Fulham and your fitness situation?
Since I’ve been injured I wouldn’t say I’m at the level I was before I left. It’s pretty disappointing personally but at the same time these things happen and you just have to make sure you keep building on the small progress you have and try and get back to where you were. It’s almost a case of starting fresh next season.
This season is nearly over in a few weeks’ time and I’m still struggling with another injury.
It’s almost at a stage for me where I just want to get this season out of the way and start fresh next season so I can do the proper pre-season and see exactly where I am and go from there.
You did however play for the Olyroos in Chinese Taipei last month. How was that?
It was a successful trip. We went over there and did exactly what we had to do. We played very well as a group and a lot of the players including myself have been together for a long time.
We’ve known each other since the AIS even and all the younger Australian teams. It was definitely an easy transition to get back to the way we were playing before because we’ve all had each other at some stage in our careers.
A lot of those sides sit back and defend for their lives. We played really well and it was good for all the players to get back together and see how far everyone’s come in their individual careers in their club football.
Given the season you’ve had in London, how much of a boost was it to be back with the Aussie boys?
It was almost a big part of the reason I was so excited for it. It’s been a tough time for me here.
I was fit for maybe six weeks before I got injured again so I was pushing for the fitness to make that Olyroos trip.
For me it was nice to get away with some old team-mates and a lot of people I’ve stayed in touch with and was really close with once before. It’s a good environment to be surrounded by positive people and old friends.
Did you notice anything about Aurelio Vidmar as a coach – particularly as he’s been an assistant to Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou for some time?
He’s been under Ange for a while now so you can definitely see that, especially in this trip. It’s similar to the way that Ange wants to play in the system and the roles of all different positions. There’s definitely an influence there and in my opinion it’s a good thing.
It’s good to have the younger teams almost replicating the first team and working in a way that Ange wants to work. So when Olyroos have a chance to go to the Socceroos you know what’s expected of you and it’s an easy transition for you rather than going from two different systems, working in different ways on and off the field.
It’s good that it seems like there’s a connection in the way that Australia’s moving forward.
Thoughts on the current Olyroo squad?
I’ve always thought extremely highly of this age group…our year, the year below and the year above is obviously very good as well. Going into January's Asian qualifiers [for Rio]we have to be confident but we also have to understand it’s a very difficult tournament.
The games will be very close together as well. When you’re playing top opposition like Japan, Korea it’s obviously going to be a lot tougher than these sorts of tournaments [in Chinese Taipei] but with the age group we have and if everyone is fit and available for selection we go in with a lot of confidence and definitely the Olympics is something we must qualify for.
I’ve got a lot of belief and the standard of this group and the players’ individual careers going on at the moment is high for the Olyroos. I think we can go in there and really give it a crack.
If things go well, you may get a chance to return to Brazil too…
When I was in Brazil [for the World Cup] I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience. Not only the Cup but also the hype around it, the fans there and it’s a great place for football. What a great place for an international tournament, especially in the Olympics.
I can only imagine the buzz there and the support we would get from everyone. For me it probably almost feels more exciting having experienced the World Cup, we have the opportunity to go and play in a similar tournament.
Qualifying is one thing … With this playing group and the quality here we should be aiming for something high. There’s no point just accepting group stages anymore. Ange is showing it in the first team now going in to the tournament we are one of the good teams anyway. We definitely have to start really trying to achieve some high targets.
Have you spoken with Ange lately?
I haven’t really spoken to Ange personally since the World Cup. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in and around the set up about it. The main problem for me has been fitness. In terms of selection it’s not something I can think about.
Focusing on my body and getting that right first is the most important thing. After that it’s about playing first team and playing well. Ange has showed that wherever you’re playing you need to be playing well. Once I get my body right the next focus is playing in the first team and scoring goals.
It’s not something I doubt myself in scoring goals and performing. At this level it’s just important I get the opportunity. I’ll be working hard and the pre-season is the main thing where I’m level with everyone in the team, my fitness should be the same as everyone and then it’s just about competing for places.
I’m not scared of doing that and put myself in there to show exactly what I can do.It’s disappointing not being at the level I was at but the pre-season should set me up to get back to where I was.
And not just get back to where I was but also get even better than that.
So what’s the plan for the rest of the season?
Haven’t really trained since I got back from the Olyroos. I’m struggling a little bit with a couple of little niggles.
At the moment it’s just about getting my body right. The last thing I want to do is make one of these small injuries worse by the end of the season and then come next season I’m already playing catch up again.
It’s important to get my body right. Without being 100 percent in your body it’s hard to build on your performances each week. It’s been frustrating but I’ve learned a lot about my body and myself and how it works. For me the most important thing is to get my body right and if it comes sooner rather than later I’m up for selection but until then I’m really focused on just getting myself 100% so I can really focus on my performances.
So you’ll do rehab in Australia?
I’m going to come back to Australia and see a few people to do a few individual rehab programs. Mainly people I’ve already seen before that have helped me a lot. I’ll focus to go into the pre-season to clear my mind and come back fresh but also give myself a head-start going into next pre-season.
In terms of game time I haven’t played much, but in terms of getting myself right most days I’m at the club from 9-5. In the gym, outside doing running and I’ve had a lot of training sessions.
It’s been a long year of getting my body right and it hasn’t really come off yet. A break wouldn’t be the worst thing but it’s important to do all the things I believe has helped but also use the time in a smart way to make sure I go into the pre-season extremely fresh but with a head start.
How do you like London?
It’s a great place. In a football way there’s so much hype, all you see every day is football, football, football. It’s an exciting place and definitely an easy transition from Australia. You could really go to a place that’s hard to live so it was nice coming to London – I live in Clapham too - in a good place with a lot of other Aussies as well. The amount of Aussies you see is pretty crazy and it feels like a home away from home.
Must have been tough watching the Socceroos win the Asian Cup?
After I left the World Cup the next thought on my mind was the Asian Cup and making sure I was fit to be selected for that. The six months leading in when I was smashing my rehab as I could to make sure I was ready for it.
It was disappointing not to be fit for it but watching I was so happy and over the moon that we were able to win it, especially under Ange as someone who I could see in training every day and understand why he has been successful and why the Socceroos will be successful. It was such a good feeling. I was just so happy we were able to win it.
What’s your situation with Fulham?
I’ve got another two years on my contract. I need to be somewhere where there’s going to be an opportunity for me and where there’s people that believe in me. At the moment it’s Fulham. If they were to look at a different option that’s something I’ll look at then but at the moment I’ll be at Fulham next pre-season and pushing for my spot then.
Have you spoken with your manager Kit Symons about next season?
I haven’t spoken too Kit about next season at all. There was an opportunity for me to go on loan in January but in the end there was a few clubs but we couldn’t come to an agreement.
I was looking to get through this season and push for the first team but I had a lot of injuries. For Kit it’s one of those things where he’s been under a lot of pressure and needs results we were close to the relegation zone.
Next season it’s going to be a whole different story. I have to go in with an open mind, work hard and try and give myself and give myself an opportunity. If not we can look at different options. At the moment I’m focused on getting in the Fulham side and having a good pre-season.
You were signed to Fulham by Felix Magath. How was it working under the German?
Going to Fulham was an exciting opportunity. Magath was there and under him there was an opportunity to play. Whether you performed and kept your spot is a different story but if you were playing well and performing well you would have your spot in the team.
He was a manager that wanted to work hard and you could see why he had a lot of success at his previous clubs in Germany. It didn’t work out here [at Fulham] but you could understand why he was so successful. At the same time, me coming from Australia and a real hard-working culture it made the transition it bit easier.