Fluke trial at Celtic began Aussie’s path to World Cup
things seem to happen to Jackson Irvine – and the most unexpected of all could be a summons to take on France in the World Cup tommorrow night.
Irvine, 25, was a teenager ignored by the professional system in Australia when granted a trial in December 2009 at Celtic, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, purely by dint of a family connection while on holiday.
Within three training sessions he had secured a twoyear scholarship deal.
It began an old-fashioned and old-school apprenticeship that taught him harsh lessons – and he kept learning them through the lower leagues in Scotland right up to his current club, Hull City, in the English Championship.
“I was so fortunate for them (Celtic) to give me, a kid from Australia, a chance to be a professional footballer when I had no professional background, no academy training, no state recognition,” Irvine said.
“I was sitting in the boardroom with all the academy coaches and I thought it was just when they sat down with every trialist and told you how you’d gone. But instead they offered me a contract, and the first words out of my mouth were, ‘What about school?’”
Four months later, in April 2010, Irvine moved to Scotland, alone, aged 16. After comUNEXPECTED ing through the youth ranks he spent a year on loan at Kilmarnock, before a change of manager at Celtic convinced him he needed to go elsewhere.
“But I’d had such an average season with Kilmarnock I couldn’t even get a loan move,” he recalled.
“It was actually deadline day and Ross County had no points and no manager. The chairman called me and said they needed players who could cope with a relegation battle.
“I went up and we fought and battled – I think we had 12 points on Valentine’s Day, miles off the pace. Then we went on some ridiculous run, won something like nine games out of 14 and ended up finishing ninth. They bought me permanently the next summer, and we won the League Cup, which is one of the absolute highlights of my career.”
That was enough for English side Burton Albion to splash a record sum on Jackson, who scored 10 goals for them in the Championship and was promptly bought by Hull City.
“I played the majority of games for Hull this year,” Irvine said. “I feel I’ve progressed personally – playing with better players so it’s difficult to stand out as much.”
Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk is pondering whether to deploy Tom Rogic or Irvine behind the striker against France.
CHANCE TO PLAY: Jackson Irvine trains this week in Kazan ahead of the Socceroos’ World Cup opener against France.