FORMER England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is determined to repay the faith Dean Saunders has placed in him by helping Doncaster Rovers move up the Championship table.
Kirkland, who is set to start in between the sticks against Leeds United tonight, arrived on loan from Wigan Athletic on Wednesday night and has pledged to rebuild his career at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The 30-year-old told The Star he first heard of the South Yorkshire club’s interest last Friday when he was contacted by top football agent Willie McKay, who is working closely with Rovers boss Dean Saunders.
Kirkland, once the most expensive goalkeeper in British transfer history when he joined Liverpool for £6m at the age of 20 in 2001, has paid tribute to Rovers for giving him the chance to play regular first-team football again, having fallen down in the pecking order at Wigan.
“It feels great to be here,” he said. “I am grateful to Doncaster for giving me the opportunity to play some matches.
“I have no qualms over coming here. My career has gone backwards the last 12 to 18 months. I have not played a lot so I needed to give myself a kick up the backside and that is why I’ve come here.
“I have got a lot to prove. I have to rebuild my career. Not a lot has happened over the last 12 to 18 months so it is up to me to change that.”
Kirkland, who becomes Rovers third new signing since Saunders appointment as manager last month, has not started a competitive match since January. Injuries have curtailed the Leicester-born shot-stopper’s progress but he refuses to use that as an excuse for not realising his potential.
“I accept responsibility,” he said. “The injuries have not helped but I try not to focus on them. Everyone goes through tough parts in their career but I am determined to get myself out of it.
“I won’t be the first person to go through a bad run and I won’t be the last. I’m not looking for any sympathy at all and the only person who can turn it around is me.”
He is uncertain over his long-term future at the DW Stadium. His deal runs out with the Latics next summer and he is not ruled out staying with Rovers beyond the New Year.
Kirkland, who made his debut for England in 2006, said: “The most important thing is Doncaster have given me a chance and I want to first and foremost repay them and the gaffer. I want to give myself options in January.
“I want to do well for Doncaster and see what happens after that. I just want to concentrate on helping the team.”
Saunders has spoken of his delight at getting Kirkland on board and is challenging him to use the loan spell to get his career back on track.
The Welshman said: “Chris needs to play and I’m going to give him the chance to do that. He has played for England, played in the Premier League and I think he is going to be a great signing for us.
“He is a big unit but he won’t be fazed by the crunch games we have got coming up. He has played in bigger matches. He is only 30 so he’s not even at his peak yet. Everybody knows what a good goalkeeper he is but you can’t show it if you are not playing.
“I’m sure if he plays well for us we will win games and then we would have the problem of trying to keep him.”
Wigan are paying the bulk of Kirkland’s wages and Saunders recognises it would not be straight forward trying to sign him on a permanent basis when his loan deal expires.
He said: “There is a chance it could become permanent if he likes it here. I don’t know how we would do it financially. Something would have to change for us to get him here. He is a Premier League goalkeeper so from his point of view he just needs to come here and play well.”
Latics boss Roberto Martinez insists Kirkland still has a major role to play at Wigan, saying: “He has been working really well over the last few weeks and this is a great opportunity for him. Chris is a pristine professional. He is special. Doncaster will be a really good opportunity for him to get sharp, come back and help the team to achieve its aims.”
Saunders has revealed he is still interested and in discussions with ex-Real Madrid midfielder Mahamadou Diarra and winger El-Hadji Diouf over joining his revolution.
“I have spoken to them and they are thinking about it,” he said.
The Rovers chief has also confirmed Shelton Martis is unlikely to be fit to face Leeds after picking up a groin injury in training this week. It means Herita Ilunga is set to be given his debut at left-back while George Friend is expected to be moved to centre-back to partner Richard Naylor.
Pascal Chimbonda may have to settle for a place on the substitutes bench, having missed several training sessions for personal reasons during the two-week international break.