Socceroo Jackson Irvine has set his sights on breaking into Celtic's first team next season alongside Tom Rogic after a breakout campaign with Kilmarnock.
Socceroo Jackson Irvine has set his sights on breaking into Celtic's first team next season alongside fellow Aussie Tom Rogic after a breakout campaign with Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League.
Irvine is on loan at Rugby Park from the Scottish champions and has made quite an impression this season, so far making 24 appearances in all competitions for Killie.
The 21-year-old from Melbourne (he's a Victory fan) admits it's been quite a steep learning curve but just what he needs as he strives to live up to his burgeoning reputation.
After getting a prolonged taste of first-team football this campaign, Irvine is desperate to keep playing games with his number one priority breaking in at Celtic where he's been since a teenager in 2010.
"A lot of people can view loan moves as a dead end at certain clubs but Celtic made it very clear to me when I left it was part of my development as a player," Irvine told www.footballaustralia.com.au from Scotland this week.
"So I'll definitely be coming back fighting in the next pre-season to try and get my spot in the first team.
“I would find it hard to go back and sit in the reserve team after the season that I've had.
"I've been lucky enough to play with Tommy (Rogic) a few times in reserve games and a couple of first team friendlies during pre-season as well and everyone in Australia knows what a gifted player he is and everyone at Celtic knows that as well.
"I've been at Celtic for four years now and it takes time to adjust to a different style of football and a different tempo.
“Tom will adapt and I'm more than confident next season when he does come back he's more than capable of stepping up into that level.
"I'd be pretty happy to join him as well. It would be great to get out onto the park together." Irvine has had no choice but to grow up quickly, with Killie embroiled in a nerve-wracking battle to avoid the drop from the top flight.
Killie is currently three points above Partick Thistle who occupy the second-from-bottom relegation playoff spot, with the two sides to meet next weekend.
Through it all though the Australian youngster has quickly become a fan favourite with his assured performances in the middle of the park as well as scoring one of the goals of the season in their first win against Ross County.
"It's been a good experience for me, there's been a bit of chaos, some highs...it's had a bit of everything for me," Irvine said.
"There's been a lot of stuff that's really helped me grow as a player. Playing in 25 games or so that I've played, it's definitely a lot more games that I was ever going to get at Celtic.
"A lot of other stuff as well that you learn to deal with as a player, pressure's coming off the pitch as well as on it.
“You're not just playing in an under-20s game in front of two men and his dog, the crowd are paying to come and see you and there's a whole other level that comes with that as well.
"We're in a bit of a dog fight for that second bottom playoff position. The fans don't want to be anywhere near there so the pressure's even higher."
But the versatile youngster - equally comfortable in defence or midfield - has shown he can handle the heat.
It's why he was handed a Socceroos debut against Canada last year and also the reason he is being talked about in some quarters for a berth in Ange Postecoglou's World Cup squad.
Asked about the prospect of being in Brazil in June, Irvine said it was on the park that will decide such questions.
"I'm doing my best every week for my club to try and stay in Ange's thoughts.
"Whether it's for the World Cup or for the future in terms of Asia Cup and a lot of other tournaments that are to come, all you can really do is focus on yourself and your performances and hope that you can play a part going forward.
"There's also a lot of stuff coming up with the under-23s and Olympic qualifiers so hopefully I can keep myself involved.
"Getting my debut against Canada, it shows that the national set up is very willing to give young boys a start and looking towards the future as well as the present which is good to know."
The final chance to see the Socceroos on home soil before they head to the World Cup will be when they take on South Africa in a farewell game on May 26 in Sydney. Tickets for the match, presented by NAB, are on sale now. Click here to secure yours today.