Jackson Irvine: Highs and lows of an Aussie Bhoy

The famous quote from a Tale of Two Cities can sum up the lot of a footballer’s life - the winning and losing, making the team and missing out. 

That’s exactly the case with Socceroos and Celtic midfielder Jackson Irvine.

There were the best of times – captaining the Young Socceroos at the FIFA U- 20 World Cup, playing regularly in the Scottish Premier League for Kilmarnock, winning his first Socceroos cap and almost scoring on debut.

Followed by the worst of times – being knocked out of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the group stage and the disappointment of missing out on Socceroos selection.

Irvine failed to make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but the 21-year-old from Melbourne was philosophical about his omission.

“It was a disappointment not to be selected for any of the squads but it was not something that I was expecting, and I’m sure there are many other players who feel that same way,” Irvine said.

Adding: “I was tremendously impressed at how the team performed. They not only showed promise for the future, but put in performances to be proud of in all three games.”

With the Brazil World Cup in the rear view mirror, Irvine is looking forward to adding to that one Socceroos cap, with upcoming friendlies, the Asian Cup and Olympic qualifiers looming on the horizon.

“It’s every young Australian player’s dream to represent the Socceroos at the World Cup and I’m no different,” he said.

“That’s the level I’m striving to get to and hopefully one day I can achieve it.

“It all starts with continuing to play at the highest level possible on a regular basis. There are also tournaments coming up for U-23’s with Olympic qualification … so that is definitely something I am working towards.”

It is club football that decides a player’s national team fate and for Irvine getting regular game time with Kilmarnock was the reason for the Socceroos cap he earned against Canada.

It had everything I could have learnt from a debut season - goals, mistakes, assists and a red card

Irvine made 25 appearances and scored one goal in his 2013-14 breakthrough season, noting it was an important time in his football development.

“It was a very surprising and eye opening season for me. Regular first team football was vital for my development at this age so it was great to go out and get those games with Kilmarnock,” Irvine said.

“Adapting to regular first team football isn’t something that happens over night but I feel as the season went on I adapted to the pace of the game and ended the season very strongly.

“It had everything I could have learnt from a debut season - goals, mistakes, assists and a red card. All of which I replayed and re-watched to take everything I could from those moments.”

Recalling his debut goal against Ross County, Irvine said: “I don’t score very often so I was delighted.

“It was a short free kick rolled to me at the edge of the box and my curling shot was lucky enough to float into the top corner.

“It was just a few days after I had my Socceroos debut so it was a memorable ending to that week.”

During the last SPL season when Dundee United hosted Kilmarnock, Irvine faced his Young Socceroos team-mate Curtis Good.

The two have known each other since they were 10-years-old and living just two minutes from each other.

“It was pretty surreal and quite funny,” Irvine said of facing off against his good mate on the pitch.

“It is ironic that our paths have overlapped as they have, considering that we grew up together and how different those paths could have been.

“(Anyway) he managed to get away from me and score from a corner which I wasn’t very happy about and still haven’t heard the end of. I don’t think I will any time soon.”

But it is with another Socceroos rising star that the parallels are more evident. Both Irvine and Tom Rogic missed out on the World Cup squad, and both spent last season on loan away from Celtic.

I will always be a Celtic player first and foremost

Asked if they spur each other on, Irvine had nothing but praise for his Celtic teammate.

“Tom is an excellent player with fantastic ability,” he said.

“He has struggled with injury since the World Cup as everyone knows, but I have no doubt once he is fit he is capable of making an impression at Celtic and becoming a regular starter.”

While he is unsure what plans Celtic have for him in the season ahead, he remains a Hoops player at heart.

“Pre-season is an interesting time at any club with many friendlies being played and squads are still chopping and changing,” he said.

“(But) my priority while I am signed at Celtic will always be a Celtic player first and foremost.

“But if regular games are going to be hard to come by then another loan move would be the smarter option for me.”

Being in Scotland since he was 16, Irvine has learnt a lot and matured as a footballer. Being away from home at such a young age can make or break a footballer, but the Australian has taken it all in his stride.

“I’ve been in Scotland for nearly five years now and a lot changes between the ages of 16 and 21,” he said.

“I’ve matured a lot as a player through all the games, seasons, and tournaments I’ve been able to play in.

“Living away from home and so far from your family also forces you to grow up quickly. I’m sure all players who move to Europe young can relate to that.”

With Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou focusing on youth, many Socceroos fans will hope to see players like Irvine getting more game time and Irvine knows the best way to add to his single Socceroos cap is to play regularly for your club.

“It is definitely a goal of mine to get involved with the Socceroos again in the near future,” he added.

“Ange has made it very clear he wants players playing at a high level and playing regularly at first team level so that’s what I’ll try and do over the coming months to get myself in his thoughts.”

Con Stamocostas writes the blog: A Football Story