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Jon Harley enjoying The Blades

last updated Tuesday 17th December 2002, 10:03 AM
Fulham defender Jon Harley surely encapsulates, if any player does, the transient nature of footballing fortune.

The Fulham full-back is seeking to rebuild his reputation at Sheffield United after being deemed surplus to requirements by Jean Tigana, who paid £3.5million to rescue him from Chelsea's reserves.

Harley's career to date provides a study in frustration. The 23-year-old was hailed as the answer to England's left-sided problem after breaking into the Chelsea team as a teenager under Gianluca Vialli, but failed to impress his replacement Claudio Ranieri.

Fulham defender Jon Harley
Fulham defender Jon Harley
After just five league appearances under the Italian, Harley opted to join Fulham for the promise of first-team football, which failed to materialise. But he remains philosophical about his future and is certainly no cockney rebel.

Harley told Standard Sport: "It's frustrating but I'm not the only player in this situation. I'm just happy to be playing again. Most of my games at Fulham were in the reserves, which doesn't compare to the first team.

"All I want to do is play. It's massively frustrating. Given the price I went for, I thought the least I'd get was a run in the side, but I don't think I've played two games on the trot. It's not down to me and I have to do my best whenever I do play.

"I've spoken to the manager a couple of times, but I'm not one to knock on his door whenever I'm not picked. I don't like to make a fuss. I just concentrate on playing."

Unfortunately for Harley, he has had little opportunity to concentrate on what he does best. He has made just five Premiership starts in more than 18 months.

But now Harley is thriving under the more rumbustious direction of Neil Warnock and wants to stay at Bramall Lane beyond his initial two-month loan.

He said: "A permanent move is out of the question at the moment because of the financial situation, but I'm loving every minute of it. I haven't played first-team football for a while, so to have five games in the space of 15 days is fantastic.

"I'm walking around with a smile on my face, which I haven't done for a long time. I'm due to come back on 1 January but would like to stay longer."

Warnock is also enjoying having Harley on board. United have conceded just one goal in his six starts for the club, and the former England Under-21 international scored the opening goal in Saturday's 2-0 win over Reading.

That single goal against came in last month's 2-1 win over Palace and United approach tonight's game with plenty of confidence. With the Blades fifth in Division One, Harley also hopes to help them to promotion.

Harley's long-term ambition is to return to the Premiership, while he has not dismissed the possibility of becoming England's left-footed saviour.

He said: "I always aim for the highest and would like to think I could play for England. But to do that you have to be playing regular firstteam football, ideally in the Premiership. I just want to get back there as soon as possible."
Source Evening Standard by Matt Hughes
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