Hearts signing target Kye Rowles speaks after Australia debut

Prospective Hearts signing Kye Rowles pledged to maintain top form following his international debut for Australia last night.

The centre-back played 90 minutes in a 2-1 friendly victory against Jordan in Qatar, reward for a consistent domestic campaign with Central Coast Mariners.

That attracted attention from Hearts and other European clubs as 23-year-old Rowles looks to take the next step in his career. Talks between Tynecastle officials and his representatives have been positive so far.

Australia are preparing for Tuesday’s Asian World Cup play-off against United Arab Emirates in Doha. Should the Socceroos win, they progress to an Intercontinental play-off against Peru for a place at Qatar 2022.

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Rowles is not expected to start against UAE as a new recruit at international level. However, he intends to do everything possible to ensure coach Graham Arnold faces a difficult decision between him and fellow defenders Milos Degenek and Trent Sainsbury.

“Pretty stoked to get a run. First cap, it's a massive honour, it's the biggest privilege ever,” Rowles told Network 10. “I'll do whatever to stay in the team just like everyone and that's the best thing about this group. There's so much competition so you know that you have got to be on your ‘A’ game to be in with a sniff.”

Rowles is one of several players Hearts want to add to their squad ahead of next season. They must strengthen in a number of areas and defence is one after John Souttar’s departure for Rangers. Loanees Taylor Moore and Alex Cochrane have also returned to parent clubs in England after a year in Edinburgh.

Hearts full-back Nathaniel Atkinson is also part of the Australia squad but did not feature last night. Arnold chose to leave Atkinson on the substitutes’ bench with potentially two high-pressure play-off ties to come.

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Hearts signing target Kye Rowles during his Australia debut.

“Still a lot of work to do,” Arnold admitted after the game. He is eager to use the days between now and next Tuesday’s match wisely to get his squad ready.

“What we have been driving since we got into camp is reaction when we lose the ball. I have been disappointed over the campaign about the mentality of that.

“We have been working on it, I was happy tonight with the work-rate, the chasing back and the fighting for the ball and the second balls. We probably could not have had a better game to play. Jordan are a good side. They put us under pressure and that’s the perfect game that you want.

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“I think that’s the first time we have come back since I have been in charge. We have gone down 1-0 and come back. In the past few games when we have gone down 1-0 or something has happened, we have fallen apart. Tonight that wasn’t the case.”

Jordan took a 1-0 lead on 17 minutes through Mousa Al Tamari but Australia restored parity five minutes before the interval through Sunderland’s Bailey Wright. Awer Mabil of Turkish side Kasimpasa then scored the winner midway through the second half.

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