Australian midfielder Jackson Irvine is eager to show former club Celtic what they missed out on when his new permanent club Ross County takes on the reigning Scottish champions on Saturday.
Irvine, 22, completed a permanent switch to Ross County on Tuesday, penning a two-year deal with the Staggies after spending last season on loan at the club.
Ross County and Celtic open the 2015-16 Scottish Premier League season from 9.45pm AEST on Saturday night, with Irvine firmly in the mix to play.
The Melbourne-born midfielder spent a month training with Celtic in pre-season but the club never had plans to re-sign him once his contract expired.
The Hoops offered him a nominal contract to ensure any club would have to pay compensation to sign him, holding up any potential transfers following interest from County, Motherwell and Hibernian, and spurning any possible A-League moves.
Celtic also consigned him to training with the under-age squads and wouldn’t let him play in pre-season to prevent injury before any potential transfer.
The situation left Irvine frustrated but now that his future is resolved, the overwhelming emotion is relief. Next up, he’s keen to prove a point.
“To an extent,” Irvine told FourFourTwo when asked if he had a point to prove in Saturday’s game.
“There isn’t any bad blood between the club and I. I had an amazing few years there.
“The last month has been a sad way to end more than five years with the club, but they gave me the platform to build my career on. It is a very difficult club to break into.
“I’d love to go out and make my debut against them, because I’ve never played against them before. That’d be pretty special.”
The fact Irvine hasn’t been able to play any competitive football in pre-season means there’s no certainty about his selection for Saturday however.
Irvine was a regular in central midfield under County boss Jim McIntyre last term, but match fitness and sharpness could be a problem.
“Whether the manager sees me as ready to play, given I haven’t had any match-time yet, that’s yet to be decided,” Irvine said.
“Hopefully I can play some part in the game. I’d very much like to be involved, but the manager will want me to be at 100 per cent before he throws me in.”
The decision by Irvine to join County, who looked certain for relegation in their first season up last term before storming home after Christmas, was based around familiarity.
While there was interest from the more established Motherwell, Irvine felt he knew what to expect at County and believed the club could build on last season.
“It was great to hear there were other teams interested, but to go somewhere and start afresh can be difficult,” he said.
“To come back here where I can slot back into a system I know, among players I know, that was the reason I thought this was the best place I could develop.
He added: “It was an incredible run. We took 32 points from 42.
“If we can reach those sorts of performances again, this club is capable of pushing towards the top six this year.”
As for his own personal objectives for the 2015-16 season, Irvine is keen to add more goals to his game.
Irvine also has the Olyroos in mind, and while he is reluctant to enter into talk about adding to his one Socceroos cap, he knows another solid season in the SPL will do him no harm.
“I’ve played two full seasons in the SPL and this will be my third,” he said.
“If I can continue to play every week, hopefully that might be enough to get me back in the mix and the manager’s thoughts.
“But as long as you’re still part of the Olyroos squad, that’s where my heads at and anything above that would be a bonus.”comments