The Championship transformation that has built Harry Souttar for the Socceroos

As the Socceroos prepare for their first match in almost 18 months, defender Harry Souttar reflected on what he has learned playing in the 'world's toughest league' during that time. 

A lot has changed since fans last witnessed the towering centre back represent Australia in October 2019. Back then, Souttar was plying his trade in England’s League One with Fleetwood Town.

Now the 22-year-old has emerged as one of Stoke City's most dependable players, appearing as a regular fixture in the Championship. After originally signing with West Midlands outfit Stoke City, in 2016 Souttar was given the opportunity to develop by the Championship side on loan at Ross County and League One outfit Fleetwood.

“I hope [I’ve improved] since then,” said Souttar upon his return to Socceroos camp. 

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Once the defender returned from his last international camp back in late 2019, previously-underachieving Fleetwood’s league form dramatically increased, losing only once in the second half of their season and subsequently sneaking into the play-offs.

Following a second successful stint at Fleetwood, current Stoke manager Michael O’Neill opted to keep the 22-year-old at the club for the 2020-21 season. However, despite the initial show of confidence from the gaffer, regular game time was by no means assured.

"Thanks to [O’Neill] I'd really been given my chance in Championship football, I'm really grateful for that,” he reflected. 

It was a really hard pre-season, trying to show the manager what I can do and what I can offer him."

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Boosted by his experiences on loan and impressive showings in training, Souttar would go on to amass 45 appearances for Stoke City in all competitions, including 38 in the league.

The defender took seamlessly to the jump in class required to match the level of England’s second division, combatting the traits that make the Championship so renowned worldwide.

“I think that the Championship is so demanding, so physical,” he said. 

“It was a big step, I’ve relied on the older group with a lot of experience. They’ve helped me through, but it's still been really enjoyable, I've loved the past season.”

The lessons learned from a first season as a regular starter in the Championship has in Souttar’s opinion, allowed him to become a more complete player.

Riley McGree is another player called up to camp who is currently testing himself in what many pundits consider ‘the toughest league to win in world football'.

“It's nice to see [McGree] doing really well,” said Souttar. 

We're always there for each other and I think that is a real part of the culture here”

“Riley and I played against each other; I think it was only three or four weeks ago. He was still reminding me on the plane over here that [Birmingham City] won 2-0.”

With four important FIFA World Cup qualifiers coming up in a short space of time, Souttar says coach Graham Arnold has made the objective simple for the 31-man Socceroos squad.

“For these four games, it’s to win them and get maximum points,” he enforced. 

“When it's time to train, we really work hard and that's what we want to show on the pitch.”

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