Promising Socceroo Jackson Irvine may have been overlooked for Brazil 2014 despite making his Australia debut last year but he is far from disheartened about his future prospects.
The Melbourne-born 21-year-old was handed his Socceroos debut by caretaker Aurelio Vidmar against Canada last October in the wake of Holger Osieck’s sacking, but wasn’t in calculations for Ange Postecoglou’s final squad.
This came amid Irvine’s maiden campaign of first-team football at Scottish Premier League club Kilmarnock, where he made 29 appearances on loan from Celtic.
Buoyed by his first taste of regular first-team football which he openly admitted had its ups and downs, Irvine is optimistic about breaking through at Celtic and the Socceroos.
In fact, he’s far from disheartened about his international ambitions, despite Postecoglou overlooking him in preference to a number of other younger players with similar first-team experience such as Massimo Luongo, Curtis Good and Bailey Wright.
“It was always going to be difficult,” Irvine told FourFourTwo. “The camp I was involved in was a transition of managers.
“We’ve got a very talented bunch of players and I’m still very young, I’ve only had one season of first-team football under my belt.
“It was never something I was expecting. It was something you hope for and dream for in the back of my mind when you’re playing.
“But it’s something you’ve got to build on as there’s plenty of international tournaments approaching, there’s the Asian Cup and Under-23 qualifiers for the Olympics. There’s plenty for me to focus on and stay involved in the national set-up.”
Irvine is currently in Melbourne and will fly back to Glasgow later this month for pre-season at Celtic commencing on June 24, buoyed by his loan spell at Kilmarnock where he learnt many lessons.
First-team football at the Hoops in 2014-15 will go a long way to boosting his Socceroos hopes.
Long-time Celtic boss Neil Lennon recently resigned from the club, where Irvine has one final season remaining on his current contract.
The Hoops are yet to confirm a new manager but have been linked with Norwegian Ronny Deila and ex-West Bromwich boss Steve Clarke, as well as former Premier League duo Malky Mackay and Owen Coyle.
“It’s always different when a new manager comes in,” Irvine said. “Sometimes they come in and everyone’s back to a level playing field. It’s going to be interesting to see how that works out.
“In saying that, I had a good year last year with Kilmarnock, played 30 games, so you never know, hopefully I can get myself involved.”
Irvine refused to rule out a return to Kilmarnock, but said his preference was to break through at Celtic.
“That’s a discussion to be had with Celtic when I get back,” Irvine said. “My priority is to go back there and impress.
“After pre-season, once we have a clearer picture on how my season is going to pan out then we can start to talk about those sorts of things.”
Irvine, who has only made one appearance for Celtic as a substitute in September 2012, is optimistic his up-and-down loan spell will hold him in good stead.
There were many highlights for Irvine at Rugby Park such as a stunning strike against Ross County in October, but there were lowlights such as his costly error against Motherwell in August which prompted media and supporter scrutiny, something he’d never faced before.
“It had almost everything you could take from a first season at first-team level. It had goals, red cards, mistakes and then some assists and really good games,” he said.
“I learnt an awful lot off and on the field. Learning to deal with the media and fans it’s something you don’t have to deal with when you’re a young player playing reserves. That was another level of pressure that was a good learning curve.”
Irvine shot to fame in Australia after a friendly with Celtic against Liverpool where he swapped shirts with Steven Gerrard afterwards and he referenced the Reds great when discussing how he overcame the media and fan criticism.
“It’s a case of trying to get it out of your head and not think about it,” Irvine said. “When you do make an error at that level you’re going to get punished. It’s not like playing at Under-19’s level.
“I had a few of them this year and it is very difficult and painful. It’s one of those things you wish you could get out of your mind, but it does linger, you watch it back again and wonder what happened.
“But it’s the only way you can learn. You see it at every level, look at Steven Gerrard (against Chelsea), who is one of the most experienced and best players in the world."comments