It’s been a long road to the Caltex Socceroos for Jackson Irvine. And now the English-based midfielder is determined to grasp his chance with both hands at this month’s Confederations Cup in Russia and the World Cup qualifiers that follow.
A STEEP SCOTTISH LEARNING CURVE
Irvine was just 17 when he joined Scottish giants Celtic.
“When I look back now, I don't think I really understood what was going on,” he told www.socceroos.com.au
“At 17 or 18, you think you know everything.
“All you care about is playing football, but all this other stuff comes with it as well.
“I didn't understand the magnitude of what I was going into - one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“I had just started year 12 and Mum was very forceful [that] I should finish school, so in my first year as a pro I was still coming home and studying at night.
“That posed a set of challenges in itself trying while to adapt to fulltime football.
“You're also dealing with homesickness and being away for the first time.
“It was very, very difficult.
“But Celtic gave me the opportunity to build a platform to have a professional career in the game.
“Although it maybe didn't end on the best of terms with the club, I'm very grateful for the opportunity they gave me.
“I was very fortunate to make an appearance there and make my senior debut as a Celtic player.
“I've become a Celtic fan now and the club will always have a special place with me,” he said.
BREAKTHROUGH AT BURTON
After three seasons with Celtic, Irvine spent time at Kilmarnock and Ross County before a move last year across the border to Burton Albion.
The 24-year old made 42 appearances for the English Championship club in 2016/17, top-scoring with 10 goals.
“You go into every season wanting to build on what you've done,” he said.
“I scored one in my first [professional] season, two in my second and three in my third season, so I went to Burton and said four is my target – I had four in the first eight or nine games, so I thought, here we go!
“I ended up scoring ten goals and then scoring my first goal for Australia.
“Goals are always going to make headlines but in terms of my all-round performances I was delighted with the way my game progressed throughout the season.
“I've got a three-year deal at Burton and I'm very grateful they've given me an opportunity to grow my career in England and in particular at that level in the championship.”
SENIOR SOCCEROOS SETTING THE STANDARDS
Irvine’s most recent international appearance was his tenth cap.
And the relatively fresh Caltex Socceroo is keen to learn all he can from the more experienced members of the squad, including Tim Cahill, Mark Milligan and Robbie Kruse.
“They have a wealth of experience at domestic level and obviously at international level,” he said.
“Probably the biggest thing you can take from them is the way they carry themselves around the squad.
“The senior players are very much the ones who create the environment.
“It's a very level playing field and everyone's on the same wavelength.
“There are no egos and they're all so down to earth considering their achievements, especially at international level.
“Then of course there's their influence on the pitch as well which is absolutely massive and they're very key around what is a young squad,” he added.
IRVINE RELISHING RUSSIAN RIDE
With Australia’s opening game of the Confederations Cup against Germany just days away, Irvine is determined to soak up the experience of his first major tournament with the Caltex Socceroos.
“You just have to embrace it and not let the moments pass you by,” he said.
“We've always said being part of the squad is a privilege and not a right.
“It doesn't matter how well you've played, you can never guarantee yourself a place in the squad.
“It's another chance for us to keep progressing and grow our game and play against different styles and different footballing philosophies.
“That's what international football is all about,” said Irvine.
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