Hearts’ Ryan McGowan keen to jump aboard Socceroo express

Ryan McGowan has been in good form this season and recently found the net against arch-rivals Hibs
Ryan McGowan has been in good form this season and recently found the net against arch-rivals Hibs
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AFTER a series of dominant displays for Hearts, Ryan McGowan is being considered for a call-up to the Australian national team. Football Federation Australia have confirmed that their head coach, Holger Osieck, will watch the 22-year-old during a scouting mission to Europe ahead of the Socceroos’ friendly with Denmark on June 2.

McGowan’s performances in the SPL have drawn attention in his homeland and Osieck is impressed by the defender’s versatility. His assurance this season at right-back and, most recently, left-back, has belied his age and experience. He can also operate in central defence or midfield.

A spokesperson for FFA told the Evening News: “Holger will be scouting for Australian players and Ryan McGowan is on that list of players.” McGowan won’t be considered for next month’s World Cup qualifier with Saudi Arabia in Sydney as Australia have already progressed to the next phase of the Asian qualification process. However, he could earn his first full cap against Denmark in Copenhagen.

Born in Adelaide, McGowan has represented Australia at under-17, under-20 and under-23 level and is eager to play for the country of his birth. He is eligible to play for Scotland as both his parents are from Glasgow, but his preference would be Australia.

“If I am on the radar that’s great but most importantly I need to be playing regularly for my club to have any real chance of a call-up,” said McGowan. “My heart has always been with Australia. I was born and brought up there and it’s only the fact my parents are from Glasgow that people have been talking about me having that option.”

FFA officials say McGowan has been on their radar for the full squad some time. He attended a Socceroos development gathering in Duisburg, Germany, last spring and was noted as one of many emerging talents. Regular game time at club level this season puts him in prime position for a call-up, although the final decision will be taken by Osieck.

“It’s really been just hearsay. I’d love to get a call-up for Australia,” continued McGowan. “I enjoyed that camp last year and took a lot away from it. It would be a dream come true to play for the Socceroos.”

Osieck will check on several promising Australian players across Europe but his scouting mission will focus heavily on the UK. He travels to the northern hemisphere in April when the Australian A-League season is completed and will arrive in time to take in the conclusion of all major European leagues.

McGowan is eager to secure a regular starting berth at Hearts through to the end of the season and enhance his prospects of full international recognition. He recently established himself in the team by deputising impressively for injured left-back Danny Grainger. The rise to prominence in an unfamiliar position attracted deserved praise which reached Osieck and FFA officials Down Under.

He sees his versatility as a strength and is willing to play anywhere for his club manager, Paulo Sergio. “As long as I’m getting picked, I’m happy,” he said.

The defender missed Hearts’ last two matches – the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie with Auchinleck Talbot and Saturday’s 5-2 win over St Mirren – through suspension. He was issued a retrospective two-game ban by the Scottish Football Association for violent conduct in the Edinburgh derby with Hibs earlier this month.

That punishment has now been served and McGowan is expected to return to the starting line-up this weekend when Hearts travel north to visit Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He will be determined to continue where he left off with Grainger still injured and the team enjoying a fine run of five wins and a draw in their last six matches.

“We’re unbeaten in six games and I’m enjoying my football,” said the player, who scored his first senior goal for Hearts in the aforementioned derby win. “I’m not looking too far ahead. It’s all about playing well and seeing where it takes me. I am happy in Scotland but who knows where the future lies.

“They might offer me another contact, somebody might come in for me, or the club might not think I’m good enough, so I have to try and keep improving. I just want to play at the highest level I can and if that is the SPL then fine. If it’s the (English) Premier League one day then that’s great.”

McGowan, contracted to Hearts until June 2013, was reared by the South Australian club Para Hills Knights – around 15 miles north of Adelaide – and graduated from the South Australia Institute of Sports before arriving at Hearts as a raw 16-year-old in 2006.

His progress since then has been steady through the various levels of the Riccarton youth academy. He believes the SPL is a strong environment where his career can flourish further. “Look at the situation with Matt McKay (Rangers midfielder with over 20 full caps for Australia). We all know how good he is but he isn’t getting a game at Rangers at the minute and the standard here is much better than some people reckon. There are a lot of good players. Hopefully Matt’s chance will soon come at Rangers.”

Across in Edinburgh, McGowan has ruthlessly grabbed his own opportunity and his national coach will be interested to see just how much the defender has grown when he arrives at Tynecastle in the spring.