EXCLUSIVE: Celtic teenager Jackson Irvine has reiterated his intentions are to play for the Socceroos and hopes to soon meet his Australian boyhood heroes like Harry Kewell.
The Melbourne-born 19-year-old midfielder made his Celtic debut in last week's 2-2 Scottish Premier League draw with Hibernian, before becoming the talk of Scotland due to his international intentions.
Irvine is eligible to play for Scotland as his father hails from Aberdeen, however he confirmed in the Scottish press last week that he has committed to Australia having been born and bred in Melbourne before joining Celtic as a 17-year-old.
Speaking to au.fourfourtwo.com, Irvine clarified the situation before revealing he grew up running around in a Harry Kewell No.10 Leeds United strip and had travelled to the 2006 World Cup as a Socceroos fan.
“It's been talked about a lot over here. I did play for Scotland Under-19s and I've come into the media light in the past few weeks, having made my deubt, so it has come to the fore,” Irvine said.
“But it has been cleared up officially, I have chosen to play for Australia now... My intentions are fully to play international football for Australia and I will do so the first opportunity I can.”
Irvine, who grew up in Melbourne's south-east and played for local clubs including Richmond, Knox City, Endeavour United and Frankston Pines before moving to Scotland in April 2010, added he felt Australian rather than Scottish having admired Socceroos stars like Kewell and Tim Cahill as a youngster.
“As a midfielder I always liked Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano, a Melbourne boy, but like most Australian kids when I was growing up, I looked up to Harry Kewell,” he said.
“I used to have a Leeds strip with Kewell No.10 on the back and all my Australia strips had Kewell No.10 so he was my biggest idol growing up.”
The 19-year-old actually linked up with the Socceroos camp during their visit to Edinburgh last month for the 3-1 friendly loss to Scotland. Irvine drove from Glasgow to the capital where he met coach Holger Osieck as well as some of his heroes although Kewell and Cahill weren't part of the squad.
“It was a bit surreal. I went to the World Cup in 2006, supported these guys and grew up watching them play. To be able to meet them was pretty special,” he said. “That's my aim, to be in that squad so if I keep working hard hopefully I can be there one day.”
In the meantime, Irvine's goal at Celtic for this season is to remain involved with the first-team squad, particularly given the prospect of taking on Spanish giants Barcelona after they were drawn in the Hoops' group in the Uefa Champions League.
“To even be involved, to even be in the squad or on the bench it'd be amazing,” he said.
“The prospect of having, the best players in the world coming to Glasgow, if there's any way you can be involved then you want to push for that because that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be on the pitch with guys like Messi and Iniesta.
“Hopefully I can stay involved until that point because that would be career-making.”
Irvine has already had a taste against some of modern game's best players, having made his competitive Celtic debut in pre-season against 2010 European champions Inter Milan.
“That was crazy,” he recalled. “I came on playing at centre half marking Milito, who scored two in the Champions League final, so it was unbelievable.
“They were all playing, Sneijder, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Nagatomo, it was basically their full squad, so it was pretty special to be around them.”
As for his performances in his appearances against Inter and Hibernian, Irvine knows there's much to work on.
“You can never prepare yourself for something like that. When there's points at stake, with the atmosphere with 60,000 people, there's nothing like it,” he said.
“There's a lot of pressure and I was quite nervous (against Hibernian). I had a few nervous touches but I settled into the game after a while.”
He almost marked his debut with a goal too and Irvine, who played in central midfield against Hibs but can also play at centre half, recalled the chance.
“From a corner the ball dropped to me on the left foot but I just pulled it to the right,” he said. “It would've been a perfect way to mark your debut to score a goal but that's the way it goes.”
As for his first-team prospects at Celtic, Irvine is optimistic given the club's various commitments, while he is determined not to be just another youngster to fail to make the grade after debuting.
“They've got so many games coming up, because they've qualified for the group stage of the Champions League, still got the league games then there's the League Cup and Scottish Cup, so they're in four competitions at the moment and there is a few issues with injury, so hopefully that will keep the door open for guys like myself,” he said.
“I just want to stay amongst it. A lot of boys in the past year here have made their debut but fallen by the wayside back into reserves and youth football and I don't want that to happen to me.”