ONE ON ONE: JACKSON IRVINE
IN ONLY 17 GAMES, THE STALWART FOR HULL IN ENGLAND’S CHAMPIONSHIP HAS PROVEN HIS WORTH TO THE SOCCEROOS WITH HIS VERSATILITY AS A DEFENSIVE LINCHPIN OR ATTACKING THREAT IN THE MIDFIELD. AFTER MISSING OUT ON THE 2014 BRAZIL WORLD CUP, EXPECT THE 25-YEAR-OL
What does the World Cup mean to you? It means everything. It’s what you dream of as a kid when you are running around the backyard ... pretending to play in a World Cup. I was fortunate enough to be there as a fan in Germany 2006 and the prospect of being able to be there as a player a few years later is unbelievably exciting. And – fingers crossed – I do enough to make sure I play in Russia. How do you look back on the season you had with Hull on a personal level? It’s been great. Obviously it’s definitely the highest level I’ve played at, as a senior professional, and I’ve made myself a mainstay in the team. I’ve played 37 games over the course of the season, which has been awesome. It’s been a learning experience playing amongst international standard players on a domestic level for the first time and I feel like that’s improved my all-round game.
There are a number of players from every squad in the Championship who will be going to the World Cup this year. It shows you just how competitive it is and obviously it holds a lot of us in good stead going into the tournament. How do you look back on the Socceroos’ qualification process? They are the best moments of my Socceroos' career so far. I’ve had a few substitute appearances here and there, but the United Arab Emirates game, where I scored my first international goal in only my second start, is the highlight of my 17 games for the Socceroos.
I had some tough games, especially the one away in Japan. Playing over there was unbelievably difficult. There was also the first leg in Honduras and it was great being involved in that atmosphere and bringing home that positive result to get us over the line. I’ve been fortunate enough to play a significant role over the last two years. It’s been amazing and now I get the opportunity to try and put all that work into a tournament process at the World Cup. When you heard that Australia’s World Cup group opponents were France, Peru and Norway what were your initial thoughts? My first ever call-up was away in France in 2013 under Holger Osieck, and with our first World Cup game being against France, it’s very strange and very exciting.
You’re playing against the nations that are all in the top-15 in the world, who have been performing so well in their confederations, so it’s incredibly exciting. International football now is such a good standard. Every country has individuals who are capable of hurting you and you just have to be prepared for those individuals and deal with your own structures and how you can cause problems to the opposition. How do you see yourself fitting into coach Bert van Marwijk’s plans? I see myself as pretty versatile in that midfield area and hopefully that is something he sees as appealing – that I can play in either of those positions. I’m sure he will have kept tabs on me domestically and he would’ve seen that, at times, I have been playing further forward or deeper this season. He’ll make a decision on what my role will be in his structure that will most benefit the team. Do you feel you can play regularly at the World Cup and be involved in some moments for the Socceroos in Russia? That why we want to be there. Obviously, everyone wants to be in the 23-man squad, but ultimately you want to be there and play. You want to be there out on the pitch representing your country and family and playing at the highest level. That’s where you want to be, and you have to believe in yourself that you can go out there and contribute something and try to create a special moment. That’s the dream and that’s what we’ll be there trying to achieve. What are your feelings about Australia getting past the group stage? It would rank up there with one of the greatest achievements in Australian football; you’ve got to believe we are capable. We’ve got individuals of such high quality that there is no reason we can’t hurt the teams we are up against and pull off something special to get us out of the group.
It’s been a learning experience playing amongst international players on a domestic level.