Cammy Devlin reflects on World Cup experience, disappointment at not playing and reveals key mentor within Hearts squad
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The Australian centre-midfielder had just experienced the peak of his football career by representing his country at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Yet at the same time he hadn’t played a competitive game in five weeks after missing out on selection by Socceroos coach Graham Arnold during all four of Australia’s matches at the finals.
His match-sharpness was, therefore, a little lacking. Throughout the majority of his 79 minutes on the park it wasn’t obvious. Devlin buzzed around with his typical gusto, excelling at the dark arts with a number of fouls which halted the away side’s momentum, and helping the hosts to control possession alongside Robert Snodgrass in the engine room. Though he eventually ran of our steam and had to be subbed off, it was understandable.
He was even given the man-of-the-match award at the conclusion of the contest, which Hearts won 3-1 thanks to a Lawrence Shankland double which followed an opener from Josh Ginnelly. Though Devlin's not sure whether those who voted for him had ulterior motives.
“I don't know whether I got man of the match because everyone wanted to ask me about Messi's top or whether it was about my performance,” he told the Evening News. “The most important thing was getting back out on the pitch. I didn't know whether I was going to start but I was really keen. Obviously I didn't play when I was out at the World Cup, so I just wanted to get out there and play.
“My first training sessions back were Thursday and Friday and then the game on Saturday. I was fortunate enough after the World Cup to get a bit of time off. I took that to fly home where it was my sister's 21st birthday. So I spent a week staying with my family. I was super jet-lagged when I got there and then super jet-lagged when I got back here.
“When I went to the World Cup it was probably the fittest I've ever been. I was playing every week, playing two games a week for the first time in my career for a few months. I didn't play for three or four weeks and then had a week off. I was still running and going to the gym but it's not the same as getting out there and playing.
“It was the first time in over a month but I'm not using it as an excuse. You have to get thrown into the deep end sometimes. You just have to fight through and I thought I did that the best I could.”
Being one of the few Australians in the squad not to get the chance to actually play at a World Cup was certainly a gut-punch for a footballer who always looks like he’s revelling in being out on the field, but seeing as he only made his Australian debut earlier this year there is plenty of positives to focus on.
“I think as a player if you walk away without getting any minutes and you're not disappointed then you should probably be asking questions of yourself. So I was super disappointed, but listen it's the experience I'm going to take so much away from. It'll hopefully help improve my game at club level,” he said philosophically.
“The players that did play were exceptional and you can't argue. What I did there was trained as hard as I could and tried to keep the spirits up within the team. Because you don't want to be that player not playing who's just moping around. I'm at a World Cup living everyone's dream. I've got to be grateful for that opportunity.
“It was amazing. It was so surreal. I absolutely loved it. It was unfortunate because you want to go there and play, do your bit for the team. But it was great just taking in the experience and seeing my mates do so well. Nobody expected us to do that and we should have taken Argentina, who are world champions, to extra-time. It shows how far we've come as Australians and there's so many of us living the dream overseas.
“The most important thing for me is to keep playing week in, week out, to the best of my ability and hopefully in four years time we can qualify again and I can get some moments on the pitch.”
While Devlin played well against Kilmarnock, a more fitting man-of-the-match recipient could have been the man stationed beside him in the centre of the midfield.
Snodgrass continues to excel in a Hearts jersey as he’s transitioned seamlessly from a career attacker down south to a sitting midfielder for Robbie Neilson’s side. His poise, awareness and passing ability have already made him a talismanic figure on the park after signing in September, while Devlin reveals he’s had a big impact off the field as well.
“It's unbelievable getting to play alongside someone like him,” said Devlin. “He's been so good to me since the day he came in, and for the whole changing room. He brings in so much experience and he's someone you've grown up watching in the Premier League.
“He's not only an unbelievable footballer he's also a great bloke. He's come here, shown his quality but he's also willing to help. I ask him so many questions all of the time because I just want to learn. It's a credit to him as he helps me every day. I'm probably a bit of a pest asking him all these questions but he takes the time out.
"He's come here to play but he also wants to help everyone become better footballers. That's so good. I absolutely love it.”