'I must have texted him about five times': How Cammy Devlin and his Hearts teammates discovered their Australia World Cup fate

His gut told him that he had done enough, but when Cammy Devlin received a message from Australia manager Graham Arnold on Monday lunch time to say he would call him 15 minutes later, the Hearts midfielder didn’t know what to think.

“It was the longest 15 minutes of my life,” Devlin explained. “I was sitting staring at my phone on my couch. You just don’t know what he’s going to say, you literally have no idea.

“Then he called back and said: ‘I’m just wondering what you’re up to in the next couple of weeks?’ I told him: ‘it depends what you tell me right now!’ That’s when he broke the news and it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life. It’s a dream come true.”

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Devlin has dreamed of playing in a World Cup since he was a child and recalls waking up in the middle of the night with his dad to watch the Socceroos compete at the greatest sporting event on the planet. So news of his inclusion in Australia’s 26-man squad for Qatar 2022 and the prospect of taking France, Denmark and Tunisia in Group D later this month was so special Devlin uses every superlative he can think of to explain what it means. Off the scale.

After receiving his first cap in September, he knew he was in the running to make the squad for Qatar but opportunities like this don’t come along often in any player’s career. So when his phone started to ring and Arnold’s name flashed up on the screen, the 24-year-old from Sydney told his Scottish girlfriend to leave the room. She had Devlin’s parents live on a video call, all of them anxious to discover whether Arnold was delivering good news or bad.

“She was probably looking through the glass to see my reaction,” Devlin smiled. “It was a really special moment. It was the middle of the night back home, so they knew and everyone was so happy.

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“I don’t cry often but if there’s one time in your life that you probably can share a bit of emotion then it’s getting called up for a World Cup. It was my reaction straight away. I couldn’t control myself. I was jumping around the gaff, so happy.

“The video of how I celebrated the win over Motherwell at the weekend – it was a similar scene in my living room on Monday. I was so grateful and thankful for the opportunity he has given me. I’m just so happy.”

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Cammy Devlin says he was in tears after receiving confirmation from Socceroos manager Graham Arnold that he is in the 26-man Australia squad for the World Cup. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS

What he didn’t know at that stage on Monday afternoon was whether or not Hearts teammates Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson had made the cut. The Aussie trio live in the same block of apartment, so he had to handle news of his inclusion in the squad with some delicacy.

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“I got the first call and you don’t want to text the others in case they’ve had bad news then you feel like d***head,” Devlin explained. “I got my call, then me and Kye were going for a coffee so I wasn’t going to hang out with him and not share my news. So I told him and he was straight up to my flat to give me a hug.

“He was buzzing. He never got told until ages after me. He was sitting around waiting and I must’ve texted him about five times to ask. Natty was the same I think. When I found out they were both in it was such a relief too.

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“It’s been a nerve-wracking couple of weeks to be honest. For all three of us we’ve been trying to get through games with results but with the end goal of making the World Cup.

Cammy Devlin says he was in tears after receiving confirmation from Socceroos manager Graham Arnold that he is in the 26-man Australia squad for the World Cup. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS
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“It would have been such a shame if one or two of us were to miss out. For all three of us to go is massive. Not only for us, but the club to show there’s a massive pathway for players to go on and play on the international stage.

“It shows where the club is at in terms of the players they are bringing in. Hearts put you on a stage where national team coaches are watching. I’m so grateful to Hearts for the opportunity.

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“My mum always says your gut is normally right, but my guts were swinging round in circles. But my gut feeling was that I feel I deserve a chance like this. I think I’ve done well enough to at least be up for selection. But there are so many good Australian players playing all over the world and good midfielders too. There’s some who have missed out who are super unlucky. But I feel like I deserve it.”

Devlin’s progress has been monitored closely by Arnold since he joined Hearts last summer from Newcastle Jets. He was in the Australia under-23 squad managed by Arnold at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, but sat in the stand for two games and only got the last seven minutes of the third match when they were already out of the tournament.

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Cammy Devlin made his Australia debut against New Zealand in September. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty

“I went into that as a shadow player,” he recalled. “Now, 15 months later, being named in the 26 for the World Cup is a whole different kettle of fish. He told me I deserved it, that I had earned it with my performances at club level, he could see a different player when I went into camp just over a month ago.

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“I came off the bench against New Zealand last month and he singled out the game against Celtic and said I did really well in that. He said I made his decision for him, your performances made me pick you – now get yourself over here and get stuck in’.”

Hearts fans know Devlin will do just that.