A new start says Ilunga

Tough: Herita Ilunga tackles James Coppinger in West Ham's 1-0 win at the Keepmoat  - inset, Ilunga in his Rovers shirt.       main picture: Steve Taylor
Tough: Herita Ilunga tackles James Coppinger in West Ham's 1-0 win at the Keepmoat - inset, Ilunga in his Rovers shirt. main picture: Steve Taylor
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NEW boy Herita Ilunga has vowed to rebuild his career at Doncaster Rovers and has not ruled out staying at the Keepmoat Stadium beyond his initial three-month loan deal.

The full-back, capped 19 times by Congo, has spent the last three years at West Ham, playing 66 first-team matches.

But Ilunga has been frozen out at Upton Park since Sam Allardyce’s arrival, having fallen behind George McCartney in the pecking order, and opted to move to Rovers on a temporary basis earlier this week.

He is set to remain with Rovers until January 3 and the 29-year-old says he is grateful to manager Dean Saunders for giving him an opportunity to repair his reputation.

“I am very happy to be here,” said Ilunga, who started in a behind closed doors practice match with Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday. “We have a very good team and some good footballers and I am here to add to the team and to do what the manager wants me to do.

“It is a chance for me to get my career back on track. The deal is for three months and I hope I can do well and stay all season. I would have signed for the whole season.

“I have to play well during this three months and after that we will see what happens.”

Ilunga became Saunders’ second signing after former Tottenham defender Pascal Chimbonda joined the Championship outfit on a short-term deal last week.

His contact with the Hammers is not due to expire until the summer of 2013 and he admits he is uncertain over his long-term future. “It was difficult to be there (West Ham) because I lost all confidence from the manager and the players,” Ilunga said. “Maybe the best solution was for me to come here.

“I am very excited to start with Rovers. I have spoken with the players and I feel like they want me to come in and help them and the manager and that is important for me.”

Ilunga featured in the Hammers 1-0 victory at Rovers in the second match of the season and is adamant the team have enough quality at their disposal to be higher up in the table.

He said: “I think we can do something good this season. I played against Rovers with West Ham and it was tough. We have a good team and done well in the last three matches and we have to keep it going.”

Ilunga, who first learned of Rovers interest 10 days ago, added: “I just want to do the best I can.”

Saunders insists Ilunga will cost Rovers “hardly anything” in wages and has thanked the Hammers for agreeing to the deal.

The former Welsh international, who has secured seven points from a possible nine since succeeding Sean O’Driscoll said: “He is a class player and we have managed to get him for next to nothing.

“We can’t afford to bring him for the whole season. What we have managed to get him here for is unbelievable. I’ve used my contacts and I would like to thank West Ham for letting us have him for a sixth of his wages. He is earning a lot less than the players who are here. ”

Saunders has rejected claims Rovers have approached former Real Madrid player Mahamadou Diarra or West Ham forward Frederic Piquionne, stressing: “I have not spoken to them. There are all sorts of different names coming out the woodwork but there is nothing on the cards.”

He said he plans on giving most of his first-team players a run-out in today’s behind closed doors practice match with Manchester United.