Jamie Maclaren believes Hibs’ final three matches could prove pivotal to his hopes of playing for Australia in this summer’s World Cup finals.
After a miserable time with German side Darmstadt, the striker arrived at Easter Road on loan in January making no secret of the fact he saw playing in the Scottish Premiership as the chance to stake his claim to be part of the Socceroos’ squad in Russia.
He was, however, dealt a blow when he was named in new Aussie coach Bert van Marwijk’s initial squad for friendlies against Norway and Columbia, only to be cut from the final pool by the Dutchman.
But Maclaren feels his goals against Celtic and Kilmarnock in Hibs’ first two post-split matches can only have re-ignited his chances and with Van Marwijk due to name his provisional 30-man World Cup squad for a training camp in Turkey next week, he’s determined to further strengthen his clai mover the course of the next eight days as Neil Lennon’s side face Aberdeen, Hearts and Rangers as they continue to chase down a second place finish.
Van Marwijk will cut seven players from that squad ahead of Australia facing France on June 16 in their opening group games, with matches against Denmark and Peru to follow.
Maclaren believes he is in with a good chance of being part of it all, but admitted he needs to keep scoring goals. He said: “I’m in a good place now, playing games and scoring goals – but that needs to continue.
“The Celtic win was shown live in Australia and people would be watching that. There’s a huge ex-pat community and if I can walk away saying I’ve scored against Celtic, Rangers and Hearts then I can be proud of that.
“But I need to keep doing that in the next three games. All I can do is control how I play.”
Maclaren revealed the Aussies are keeping a close eye on him, saying: “There is a constant dialogue as they always want to know how many minutes I am getting and how my body is.
“So that’s important, if you keep them in the loop and hopefully they see in the papers, ‘Maclaren scores again’.
“I was in the last 30 when I had scored two goals, but after a few more in the last few weeks I’d like to think I have a good chance. But I need to keep my standards high and keep performing.”
Maclaren believes the key to his performances in a green-and-white shirt is simply the fact he’s enjoying his football again, revealing how the prospect of back-to-back relegations for Darmstadt had turned his move from Brisbane Roar into an unhappy experience.
He said: “The new manager Dirk Schuster wanted to keep me which caused a bit of an arm wrestle, but he knew that I needed to get out, mentally, to be happy, and also in terms of what was at stake with the World Cup coming up. If I had stayed there I might have played more, but would I have been happy? I don’t know. I look back and say this was the best decision and it’s paying off.
“In Germany it was more of a hostile experience. We had Ultras coming to the training ground, getting in your face, grabbing you by the shirt. It’s a different sort of culture. In the stadium when you were losing games you’d have bottles thrown at you. Walking down the streets in Edinburgh you hear people saying, ‘well done, keep it going’, which is nice to hear.”