Wednesday 04 October 2017, 00:20

Irvine hitting right notes for Socceroos

  • Jackson Irvine has become a regular for Australia in Russia 2018 qualifying

  • Midfielder says Socceroos are “focussed and relaxed” ahead of Syria play-off 

  • Away from football the 24-year-old plays guitar and has a passion for music

Jackson Irvine is not your stereotypical 21st-century footballer.

In fact the Australia midfielder admitted that if he was not a footballer he would be “travelling the world with my guitar”. With long dishevelled hair and an exceedingly relaxed demeanour, one can easily imagine the 24-year-old playing music and enjoying life on the backpacker trail.

A modern footballer’s life can sometimes be caught in a bubble, but Irvine's tastes lean more towards counterculture than conformist. The Melbourne-born Irvine is an avid reader, with an interest in media and journalism. He played in a metal band during his school years and counts several professional musicians back home among his friends.

But a footballer he very much is and Irvine's stock has risen in the past couple of years for both club and country. There could also be a dream debut at the FIFA World Cup™ next year in Russia if the Socceroos can survive play-offs against firstly Syria this week, and then the fourth-placed CONCACAF side next month.

It is a fair bet that none of Irvine's Socceroo team-mates will be walking into the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malaysia on Thursday listening to the same tunes in their headphones.

When Irvine says he likes all kinds of music he certainly isn't exaggerating. When pressed he names diverse tastes stretching from avant-garde 60’s outfit The Velvet Underground to cult spoken-word performer Gil Scott-Heron, and from current Aussie retro rock band Tame Impala to rapper Kendrick Lamar.

“Music has always been the other significant part of my life,” Irvine told “I was initially made to do it when I was at school, but once I started playing I was very determined. Two of my best friends in Melbourne are keen musicians as well, and hanging around playing music is what we used to do when I was younger. It is something I imagine will always be a part of my life.”

Play-off tightrope A career in music or journalism must wait for now. The immediate focus for Irvine is 180 minutes of intense football that looms as Asian champions Australia tackle fairytale play-off contenders Syria.

After winning the AFC Asian Cup in 2015 and a solid FIFA Confederations Cup campaign this year, Australia suffered the agony of missing automatic qualification for Russia 2018 last month on goal difference.

“It was incredibly disappointing that we didn’t qualify on the last matchday,” said Irvine. “You have your days of disappointment in football. We all felt it and it hurt a lot.

“But as soon as this game was announced, your focus has to turn forward, and that is what we have done. We are fully prepared and focussed, but also relaxed. We know that if we perform to our highest levels it will be enough to get us over the line.”

Taking opportunities Irvine has made every post a winner in recent years. After starting out at Celtic and Ross County, the tall box-to-box midfielder gambled on a move to unfashionable Burton Albion. With consistently high performances, Irvine earned a transfer to Hull City during the recent off-season.

That form has resulted in regular national team call-ups over the past 18 months of the ongoing World Cup campaign.

“For me it is the highest honour in the game to be called up for your country,” Irvine said. “You have to take every opportunity with both hands, because you never how limited it (opportunities) will be.

“So you have to treat every match like it is your last. For the last 12 months I have been trying to do that. I want to do my part in getting my country to the World Cup.”