Thursday night’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Tajikistan at the Adelaide Oval will be an extra special occasion for Caltex Socceroos defender Ryan McGowan.
The 26-year-old, who provided the assist for Tim Cahill's incredible goal against Holland at the Brazil World Cup in 2014, is the only member of the current squad born in the City of Churches.
And he is desperate to make the most of his return home by helping the Socceroos to a valuable three points.
“It’s great to be back in Adelaide where I’ve grown up and first started playing football.
“Its amazing 10 years ago I left here with a dream of becoming a professional footballer and international footballer and now hopefully the next time I’m back and play is for the national team,” a clearly excited McGowan told reporters on Thursday.
“Adelaide’s a great footballing town. You only have to see with our population and crowds we get for Adelaide United and any time the Socceroos have come.
“If we can get 35,000-40,000 on Thursday night it will be unbelievable for this city and the boys will really appreciate that type of support and hopefully we can put in a good show and good performance for them.”
McGowan, the brother of Adelaide United's Dylan, says he’s already started “wheeling and dealing” with team-mates for extra tickets to give to his friends and family.
- McGowan believes the pristine Adelaide Oval surface will help the Socceroos passing game on Thursday night
- The defender expects Tajikistan to employ a defensive game plan and try and hit the Socceroos on the counter-attack.
- He admits he has thought about the possibility of playing alongside brother Dylan in the Hyundai A-League one day.
And the Henan Jianye defender is hopeful he’ll get a shot from the start against the Tajiks, especially now there’s an opening in the back four after Matthew Spiranovic withdrew with a calf injury.
“Anytime someone drops out of the squad or isn’t available that’s classed as a starter it does open a few windows for other players,” he said.
“All I can do is train the next couple of days and hopefully force my way into the starting 11, and if not, make sure I'm ready if I'm coming off the bench or for whatever role I need to play."
McGowan is certainly battled hardened, having played regularly with Dundee United until January before moving to the Chinese Super League club.
He admits the dramatic influx of money and world-class players to China over the last few months has been beneficial for his game and made him more complete defender.
For now though he is focused on completing the job with the Socceroos, with wins against Tajikistan and Jordan to ensure they top the group heading into the final round of qualifying.
About half the squad has so far assembled in Adelaide and they will undertake a light training session at Adelaide Oval on Monday afternoon.
The entire squad will then hit the track together on Tuesday, with the gates to be thrown open to fans to watch Ange Postecoglou put them through their paces.