EXCLUSIVE: Jackson Irvine says the A-League has had a fantastic effect on developing Australia’s best youth, and Celtic's other Aussie hopes his loan to Kilmarnock will have a similar effect on his career.
Irvine, 20, grew up on the terraces supporting the blue half of Melbourne and while he builds his career in Celtic’s reserves after his 2010 move to Parkhead, Irvine has kept abreast of the A-League on TV and online.
“I grew up as a mad Melbourne Victory fan. My grand-dad is a season ticket holder there and I used to go every year. So I grew up watching the A-League,” Irvine told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“And the main thing I’ve noticed is the young players that are coming through. In the A-League a lot of these young players are making up the core of the teams.
“And I think that’s fantastic to see that young players in Australia can be handed such a chance to go and play every week and develop."
The midfielder was one of the stars of the Young Socceroos’ U20 World Cup campaign in Turkey in June where he played alongside many similarly talented Aussies coming through the A-League.
“We’re seeing that with the Young Socceroos. I know we didn’t qualify out of the group stage but I think we played some absolutely brilliant football,” he said.
Irvine and the Young Socceroos were lauded for their quality of overall play – particularly in their opening group match against Colombia - though ultimately results were disappointing and Australia exited in the group stage.
And with a number in that Aussie U20 squad from Melbourne Victory, Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets enjoying regular first team football back home, it backs up Irvine’s assessment of the A-League.
The likes of Connor Pain and Jason Geria at Victory and the Jets quartet of Adam Taggart, Andrew Hoole, Connor Chapman and Josh Brillante are a case in point with several Young Socceroos also receiving Socceroo call ups at the EAFF Cup in July.
“You’ve got to have trust in your players and as soon as you feel the manager has faith in you it automatically gives you confidence in yourself when you go out and play.
“The A-League will grow even more as more young players keep getting a chance to come through and play every week.”
Irvine added it would be a dream to play for Victory one day, but right now his sole focus is on enjoying a productive loan spell at Kilmarnock.
After returning to Glasgow from Turkey, the powerfully built Victorian went straight into pre-season with Celtic, where he played against Brentford and Liverpool, against whom he starred in a friendly in Ireland.
Then in August, Irvine went out on loan to Killie where it’s hoped regular first-team football will be the springboard for his own first team career at Celtic.
“I’m at Celtic for a reason. I want to play for Celtic and I want to play in Champions League and Europe. That’s what every kid wants to do," he said.
Irvine has two more years on his contract so there appears plenty of time to push for a spot with the Bhoys alongside fellow Aussie Tom Rogic.
“Obviously I’ve got my loan spell at Kilmarnock but hopefully I can take that experience and bring it back to Celtic and play there," he said. "My priority is to be a Celtic player.”
It may also provide the impetus for Irvine’s national team ambitions. Despite playing for Scotland at youth level, Irvine has stated his desire to one day play for the Socceroos.
As a stepping stone, the Olyroos are set to regroup soon ahead of the AFC U22 Championship in Oman from January 11-26, 2014.
Irvine added: “Now that I’ve moved on from the Young Socceroos the next target is Olyroos. The main way to get into the Socceroos is to have a good regular season of first team football.”
“Hopefully over the next two years I can play first team football regularly and find myself hopefully in that Socceroo squad for the Asian Cup in 2015.”