Fluke trial at Celtic be­gan Aussie’s path to World Cup

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - SPORT - — Tom Smithies

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.

PHOTO: TOBY ZERNA

CHANCE TO PLAY: Jack­son Irvine trains this week in Kazan ahead of the Soc­ceroos’ World Cup opener against France.

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