Socceroo defender eyes UK return

As he prepares for the biggest game of his career against the Netherlands, Socceroo Ryan McGowan says a return to UK club football could be on the cards once his current deal expires in China.

With six months remaining on his deal in the Chinese Super League, the Socceroo defender and former Hearts player has made no secret of his preference for a return to a part of the world where he made his name.

"I thoroughly enjoyed Scotland," the Shandong Luneng player told Goal Australia.

"I loved my time there and once my time finishes in China I definitely want to head back to the UK."

McGowan, 24, is set to replace the injured Ivan Franjic at right-back against Louis van Gaal's in-form side on Wednesday (2am Thursday AEST) when the Socceroos face the might of Holland.

Usually deployed at centre-back, McGowan found the going tough out wide in a friendly against Brazil last September, when he was given a torrid time by Neymar in a crushing 6-0 loss.

The likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, fresh from orchestrating a remarkable 5-1 win over world and European champions Spain, will pose a similar threat in Porto Alegre this week.

But his appearance off the bench in Australia’s opening game loss to Chile showed he isn’t out of his depth at a World Cup.

Unlike Australia's loss to the Selecao last year, the match at Estadio Beira-Rio is a competitive fixture. And with vital World Cup points up for grabs, the stakes could not be higher.

If McGowan does manage the impossible and help to keep the Netherlands quiet on Wednesday, he could well join some of his Australia teammates in the shop window for post-World Cup transfers.

And McGowan believes playing in defence has toughened him up for the big challenges, like the one he’ll face against the dazzling Dutch.

"So I think we're sometimes mentally stronger," he said of players in backlines across the world.

"Sometimes you have to be a bit crazy to want play in defence.”

Meanwhile, the player who McGowan has replaced in the Socceroos has been linked with a move to Croatia.

A story on the website of Croatian daily newspaper  Slobodna Dalmacija  has claimed Ivan Franjic is the subject of interest from Prva HNL heavyweights Hajduk Split.

The Brisbane Roar star caught the eye playing for Australia against Croatia in a friendly in Salvador a week before the Socceroos’ first World Cup game in Cuiaba. 

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