Who is Jackson Irvine and what will Hibs second signing of the transfer window bring to Jack Ross' squad?
Moira Gordon examines why manager Jack Ross has brought him in for the remainder of the season ...
Who is Jackson Irvine?
Jackson Irvine is the 6’2”, 27-year-old Australia midfielder, who made the transition from youth football to the professional arena while on Celtic’s books.
He has since enjoyed spells at Kilmarnock, Ross County, Burton Albion and Hull City and has earned rave reviews from managers, team-mates and fans at almost all of those clubs – the exception being Killie.
“The fans gave me quite a bit of stick at that time – and probably fair enough because my performances weren’t great,” Irvine has admitted since. “I was getting shuffled around positionally, but I don’t feel as though I gave a true account of myself or of what I feel I can offer a team. It was my first full season at first-team level ... and I still played nearly 30 games but I think I could have offered more.”
What will Hibs get from Irvine?
Versatility, physicality, a work ethic, energy and commitment, the Australian international is described as a player who won’t shirk away from a tackle or be afraid to demand the highest standards from team-mates, when necessary.
He is also someone who knows the Scottish game and can bolster Hibs’ defensive play and their attacking options. Able to offer cover in several positions, from centre-back, right-back, as well as a reluctant but typically-committed left winger on an odd occasion at Kilmarnock.
He was predominantly viewed as a defensive midfielder in the early stages of his professional career, and then a box-to-box midfielder, who has evolved throughout his time in England and returns to Scotland with an improved reputation when it comes to contributing goals.
Little bit of background info
A former youth player at Melbourne Victory, he joined Celtic’s ranks as part of a successful youth side. He made his competitive debut – against Hibs – in 2012 but he failed to hold down a regular place and was loaned out to Killie and Ross County before eventually transferring to Dingwall.
From there he moved to Burton Albion as the club’s record signing, but moced for Hull a year later. His three years with The Tigers ended when his contract expired in the summer and he could not agree new terms. He has been looking for the right club ever since.
Had he followed a different path, he could be preparing for this summer’s Euros as part of Steve Clarke’s squad. His dad is a proud Scot but, despite representing Scotland at Under-19 level, Irvine opted to make his full international debut for Australia, in 2013.
“My dad still has my Scotland shirt framed in his office,” he has revealed in the past. “I’ve never regretted playing for Scotland at that age group but I’ve always wanted to play for Australia.”
He does and doesn’t like playing at city rivals Hearts’ ground
Asked in 2017 to name his least favourite away ground, the Gorgie stadium got the nod.
“I will say Tynecastle, Hearts’ stadium. It’s weird because it’s both my least favourite and my most favourite.
“Having played at Hearts on a number of occasions for three different clubs, when that place is rocking and jumping, it’s so intimidating. The fans are right on top of you. I played right back there one time and when you take a throw-in, they could basically reach over the barrier and grab you. Not that they did, but that’s what it felt like. It’s so loud with the high stands and a really intimidating place to play football. I don’t think I’ve ever got a good result there.”
He was a key player in Ross County side that defeated Hibs in the final to win the 2015/16 League Cup.
He has earned 34 caps and scored 5 goals for the Australian national team and was part of country’s 2018 World Cup squad.
What have previous managers have said about him
Former Kilmarnock boss Allan Johnston, speaking when he signed him on loan in 2013: “It’s good to get him. He’s a quality player and he will be a good addition to the squad.
“The big attraction is that he can play in numerous positions. He can play centre-half or central midfield.”
Former Ross County manager Jim McIntyre, who recruited him in September 2014 described him as a “hard working and conscientious professional” but had to let him go in 2016 when then championship side Burton Albion submitted a big enough bid to trigger Jackson's release clause: "We reluctantly see Jackson head south, but at the same time we wish him all the very best in what will be a great opportunity for him personally. Jackson was a key part of the Ross County squad which made history last season by winning the League Cup and finishing in the top six. He is a great character and is very popular around the training ground and with the fans so he will be missed."
Having paid a club record fee of £330,000, Burton manager Nigel Clough described him as “a revelation” in his solitary season at the Staffordshire club.
“We tweaked his position. He was a defensive midfielder at Ross County. We just think that with his energy and athleticism – both in the air and just his running – it’s a little bit of a waste. We wanted him to get into the box and he’s made some brilliant runs this season and scored some great headers. He’s been as important as anyone for us.”
Hull manager Grant McCann was another fan: “Jackson is a player we think highly of and in terms of what he does around the training ground he’s a livewire. He demands standards every single day. He’s not afraid to voice an opinion and I like that.”