James Meredith had even more reason to celebrate his excellent Socceroos debut in Thursday night's 3-0 win over Kyrgyzstan, with his family flying in from Albury to see him for the first time in 18 months.
The left-back only learned of his starting role on the morning of the match, giving just enough time for the Meredith clan to get to Canberra from the border town to watch the biggest moment of his career.
Speaking after the 3-0 win, Meredith couldn’t contain his excitement at getting his first cap in front of his loved ones.
“It was a nice surprise and I was really up for it,” the Bradford City defender said.
“My family flew from Melbourne as well. I hadn’t seen them in 18 months and, it was really lovely to see them and get the win.
“It’s a really good feeling. It was a surprise but a nice surprise getting selected in the team. I’m just really happy I put in a good display and I’m really happy for the team as well.
“I gave [my jersey to my cousin after the game]. He flew out after work, it was a last minute thing…it was so good to see my family and they were ecstatic for me.”
And they had every reason to be with Meredith barely putting a foot wrong throughout the 90 minutes.
Coach Ange Postecoglou singled him out for special praise post game and Meredith hopes he’s done enough to get more opportunities down the track.
“It’s encouraging [to hear Postecoglou’s comments]. I just have to keep my head down and work hard and hopefully be involved in another game,” he said.
“I couldn’t wait to have a go. I wanted to prove myself and do all the things the manager asked and wanted from me.
“I just wanted to get out them and try and impress them and create some opportunities for the team. I really wanted the win.”
With Postecoglou selecting four genuine central midfielders in his starting side, the onus was on the full-backs to create the width and get forward.
It means Meredith spent a lot of the match attacking Kyrgyzstan’s defenders and whipping in a number of dangerous crosses.
“There’s such good players in the centre there so it dragged a lot of the opposition players towards the centre and it left a lot of space on the wings,” he explained.
“So when the ball did get switched out to the left I had quite a lot of room to run into. I could get up some pace and get at them a little bit which was nice.
“It’s very different to the style of football in England. The quality of football is a lot better in terms of keeping it moving,” he added.
“The fitness was very different. I found myself blowing a lot more than I usually do. It’s a different sort of physicality but I was really pleased how things went.”