Lucas Neill has secured a month-long loan switch from Watford to English Championship rivals Doncaster in a move aimed at salvaging his World Cup dream.
Unable to break into Watford’s first team since signing a month ago, the club announced on Wednesday it had allowed the long-serving Socceroos skipper to join Rovers on loan until April 22.
Desperate for game time in his quest for World Cup selection, Neill managed just six minutes off the bench in a single appearance with Watford.
However he’ll be hoping to play a prominent role with 20th-placed Doncaster, who are managed by his former Blackburn teammate Paul Dickov.
Neill could make his debut as soon as this Saturday, against Leeds United at Elland Road, with Dickov impressed by the 36-year-old defender’s fitness.
“Lucas is as fit now as I have ever seen him, which is credit to him and his attitude,” Dickov told the club’s website.
“I played with him at Blackburn and I know him very well.
“He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the game and is a great person both on and off the field.”
It’s understood Doncaster were also interested in signing the defender last month and Dickov made another approach on Wednesday, a day before the closure of the loan transfer window.
“There were a lot of other Championship clubs interested in signing him but he wanted to come to Doncaster,” Dickov said.
Neill, a veteran of 96 Socceroos caps, was overlooked by Australia coach Ange Postecoglou for the friendly against Ecuador in London earlier this month with Mile Jedinak named captain in his place.
Postecoglou has made it clear Socceroos hopefuls need to be playing regularly to be considered for Brazil and Neill’s hopes of playing at a third World Cup could hinge on his short stint with Doncaster.
Upon joining second-tier Watford on February 26, Neill said playing regular football was a priority.
However his World Cup hopes took a hit when he couldn’t crack the first team as fellow centre backs Tommie Hoban, Essaid Belkalem and Joel Ekstrand returned to full fitness.
“With defensive injuries now cleared up, the decision has been made by #watfordfc to allow Lucas Neill to move on loan,” Watford said in announcing the late-season switch on Twitter.
Prior to joining Watford, Neill had been training at his former club Blackburn Rovers for six weeks but they were unable to offer him first-team opportunities.
A genuine journeyman in recent years, Doncaster becomes Neill’s seventh club since 2010.
After lengthy stints with Millwall, Blackburn and West Ham he briefly joined Everton before spells with Galatasaray (Turkey), Al Jazira (UAE), Al Wasl (UAE), Sydney FC and Omiya Ardija (Japan).
Neill is Australia’s second-most capped player behind Mark Schwarzer and holds the record for most appearances as Socceroos captain with 61.