Friday, December 19, 2014

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 11:03

Irvine’s Aussie debut may be put on hold

Written by  Craig MacKenzie
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    Action Jackson – Celtic under-19 captain Jackson Irvine. Action Jackson – Celtic under-19 captain Jackson Irvine.

    CELTIC superkid Jackson Irvine’s long-awaited Aussie national team debut in the upcoming AFC Under-22 qualifying tournament hangs in the balance.

    The tournament originally was due to start in Indonesia in late June but will now start on 5 July four days after Irvine has to report back to Celtic for the start of pre-season training.

    FFA decided earlier this year to promote the Young Socceroos to compete in the under-22 tournament in which the top two teams advance to the June 2013 finals.

    Australia is drawn in Group E alongside hosts Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Macau and Timor Leste (East Timor).

    Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon has been contacting his squad for the past few weeks and it looks increasingly likely that overseas club commitments will deprive him of some of his star performers.

    “I spoke to Paul three or four weeks ago and he understood my situation. He was in the same situation himself as a young player,” said Irvine.

    The teenager was speaking to GW before jetting out to Scotland today (Wednesday) after a nine-day stay with his family in Melbourne.

    “I’d like to think that I’d be available to play in the Indonesian tournament but I won’t know until I report back for pre-season.”

    Irvine made three international appearances for Scotland’s under-19s last year in a European qualifying tournament in Slovenia.

    That stirred FFA from its lethargy and the youngster soon became a wanted man finally telling technical director Han Berger last December that he would commit himself to the green and gold.

    “When FFA first approached me I told them what watching the Socceroos in the World Cup finals in Germany meant to me and ever since then I’ve dreamed of playing for Australia,” he said.

    Irvine’s public profile in Scotland has grown in tandem with his record-breaking season as captain of Celtic’s all-conquering under-19 side.

    “Yeah, I had my first experience of being recognised in public about two months ago,” he said.

    “When five or six of us go out you’ll get people saying ‘there’s the Celtic boys’ and stuff like that but on this occasion I was on my own and this guy rushed up to me saying my name and wanting my autograph.

    “It was surreal to be honest and at first I thought someone had set him up and he was taking the piss but he was for real. Naturally I was very obliging. I loved it,” he said with a smile.

    And it’s been smiles all round for most of the 2011/12 season as Irvine and his teammates dropped just nine points in a 22-game league campaign that saw them win the title for the third time running.

    Their stellar season was crowned with a record-breaking win against Queen of the South in the Scottish Youth Cup final at Hampden, another third successive triumph, with Irvine scoring in the 8-0 romp.

    Irvine has another year left on his Celtic contract with an option for a further year and although the next Scottish season will usher in a new under-20 competition for which he is eligible his future may lie elsewhere.

    “Next season is a very important season for me. Obviously I’d love to be involved with the first team and there were some indications towards the end of last season that I could be part of it but it never happened.

    “I think the main focus next season will be on Europe so they’ll be looking to strengthen the first team.

    “I’ll see what happens during pre-season. It may be the case that I’ll have to go out on loan and if that’s how it is then I hope it’s arranged sooner rather than later.”

    And no doubt FFA hopes Irvine is pulling on an Aussie strip sooner rather than later.

    The defender/midfielder is part of a crop of youngsters who will be given the opportunity to graduate from being 2012 and 2013 Young Socceroos to the under-22s of 2014 and 2015 and form the basis of the team that targets the 2016 Olympics.

    “They are a talented group and it is an exceptional opportunity to develop this generation,” said Berger.

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    • Comment Link Antler Bar Wednesday, 30 May 2012 12:07 posted by Antler Bar

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