Edinburgh Evening News

Irving relishing Hammers time – and a senior cap for Scotland


The route from Klagenfurt am Wörthersee to Rush Green isn't exactly welltrodde­n. Few footballer­s have travelled directly from Austria's sixth-largest city to the English Premier League, so Andy Irving is a bit of a trailblaze­r. He is aiming to make history with his current club, Austria Klagenfurt, before a transfer worth seven figures takes him to East London this summer.

Swarms of people awaiting his arrival outside West Ham United's training ground are unlikely. He will check in largely under the radar from the Austrian Bundesliga. As a quiet, unassuming type, that might well be his preference. It doesn't mean he will be content just to make up the numbers. At 23, Irving is a midfielder of notable ambition who is not scared to do things differentl­y.

He already has some experience of trailblazi­ng after leaving Hearts in 2021 to join the German thirdtier club Türkgücü Munich. Their financial collapse saw him move to Klagenfurt a year later. When West Ham appointed Tim Steidten as technical director in summer 2023, he already had a strong eye on the Austrian market. He knew of Irving from his time in Munich and monitored him closely. The player was quickly transferre­d to West Ham and loaned back to Klagenfurt for this season.

Dates are now in place for him to report to Rush Green for pre-season training. First, Irving is focused on helping his current team achieve history with their highest-ever domestic finish. Last season, he helped Klagenfurt to sixth place by contributi­ng six goals and nine assists from 34 appearance­s. He has four goals and four assists from 22 games to date this term. The club are currently fifth and will qualify for European competitio­n if they stay there.

Irving is now a fluent German speaker and does media interviews in his second language. Thankfully, he sticks to English for an exclusive chat with the Edinburgh News.

"I've definitely developed a lot over the past two years here, in all aspects," he says. "The style here in Austria has allowed me to play as a more attacking midfielder, which has changed my game quite a bit. Since I’ve been here we’ve been pretty successful in reaching the top six both years, which is big for the club. Obviously, being one point off Europe last year was close and we would love to change that this time around.

"It’s not all been rosy since I came abroad, but I’ve loved every minute of being abroad, with its ups and downs. I have grown massively as a person and

as a footballer. The life experience away from the pitch has been amazing, in terms of where I’ve lived, the friends I’ve met and having learnt a new language. When you add in the football side of things, that only adds to the enjoyment I’ve had.

"The nature here is class, and I enjoy a swim in the lake and playing some padel tennis with the boys (close friends and Klagenfurt team-mates, German forward Sinan Karweina and Austrian defender Nicolas Wimmer). My girlfriend doesn’t live here but, with her being a teacher, there are plenty opportunit­ies for her to come out, which is always great. My family have all been out to Klagenfurt, as have my friends, and they’ve all loved it – and Klagenfurt definitely enjoyed having them.”

Finishing with a flourish in Austria would set him up nicely for the biggest challenge of his career to date. Irving knows the task awaiting him in England is daunting, however he is far from overawed. Competing for a place in the West Ham midfield are the Brazilian internatio­nalist Lucas Paquetá, England cap

Jarrod Bowen and the Czech Republic captain Tomáš Souček.

"I heard about the possibilit­y [of signing for West Ham] from my agents about 10 days before the window shut [last August]. It was a lot to take in having games to focus on too, but of course it’s something every kid dreams about. I was buzzing, as were my family," he says. "Travelling to London was a bit chaotic. It was during the time when UK control towers were down, so flying to Brussels and then driving with my agent to London wasn’t exactly the easiest. I believe that I can go to West Ham and show my quality. It’s a challenge I’m very excited for. I understand the level that I’m going to and it’s up to me to show that I can play at that level."

It remains to be seen if David Moyes, a fellow Scotsman, renews his own contract to remain West Ham manager for next season. Irving knows he must impress whoever is in charge in order to secure a place in the first-team squad. Should he make the desired long-term impact in England, Irving would surely come into contention for a Scotland cap. He represente­d his country at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level, and a long-term ambition is to make the final step into the senior side. Scotland's current left-sided central midfielder­s are 29-yearold John McGinn, 30-yearold Callum McGregor and 32-year-old Kenny McLean, so a succession plan is vital over the next few years.

Speaking German isn't sufficient to earn him a call-up for this summer's European Championsh­ip despite Scotland playing in Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart. The next generation of the national team will likely start breaking through during qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 European Championsh­ip. Irving's career trajectory suggests a player with the potential to force himself into the senior internatio­nal arena.

"Yeah, it was always an honour to play for Scotland throughout the youth, and I would love to represent Scotland at senior level.

If I keep working hard to improve and perform well, then hopefully I can make that a reality."

The trailblaze­r from Portobello has had quite an adventure already, from Edinburgh to Munich and now Klagenfurt. As he prepares to move on to London, it is worth considerin­g that he might just be getting started.

 ?? Picture: Roddy Scott / SNS ?? Midfielder Andy Irving, here pictured in his time at Hearts, is hoping to be plying his trade for West Ham next season after being sent on loan to Austrian side Klagenfurt this campaign.
Picture: Roddy Scott / SNS Midfielder Andy Irving, here pictured in his time at Hearts, is hoping to be plying his trade for West Ham next season after being sent on loan to Austrian side Klagenfurt this campaign.
 ?? ?? Irving asks for the ball during a Hearts warm-up
Irving asks for the ball during a Hearts warm-up
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