Jedinak can go back to the future, says Irvine

Jackson Irvine believes Socceroos teammate Mile Jedinak can extend his career well into his thirties, should his recent switch from midfield to centre-back become permanent.

The Australia captain, who turns 34 in August, has played as stopper in place of the injured John Terry in back-to-back 1-0 wins for his club side Aston Villa over Cardiff City and Leeds United.

With three games left of the regular Championship season, fourth-placed Villa have locked down a play-off spot and the option for Jedinak, a stalwart midfielder for club and country throughout his career, to make a late deviation has become a very real possibility.

Prior to his recent positional change, Jedinak had played just 62 minutes in the Championship since March 13 and his spot in the engine room is no longer an automatic under coach Steve Bruce.

The spin-off of a redeployed Jedinak could not just benefit Villa, but also the Socceroos, where coach Bert van Marwijk is juggling five central midfielders for three spots in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

“Most midfielders when they reach a certain age, you saw what happened with Timmy (Cahill) he moved forward and with Mile, he is one who is able to move back,” Irvine said.

“He’s got more than enough quality to do that, he reads the game well and has the physicality to play in that position.

“With his experience, he is still more than capable of screening in front of the back four, the job we have seen him do so well for so many years.

“But maybe in time you will see him adapt to a different role as a lot of players have to do as their careers take a different path.

“He’s got that ability to anticipate a game, make interceptions and time his tackles and is also capable of starting the play from the back, as we’ve done over the years with the Socceroos as well.

“It all makes sense but I’m sure he will want to play his position in midfield for as along as he possibly can. That said, it’s certainly good to have the versatility in your locker.”

Benched for three successive games prior to filling in for Terry against Cardiff two weeks ago, Jedinak’s’s best chance of starting for Villa next season back in the Premier League might be as at centre-back, and a similar role might possibly be beckoning for the Socceroos in Russia in less than two months.

Competition in the middle remains as strong as ever for Australia, with the likes of Jedinak, Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo, Jackson Irvine and Mark Milligan all vying for starting places.

Irvine, who has played more minutes than any other Hull City midfielder this season with 41 appearances in all competitions, might be one to benefit should Jedinak be dropped deeper by van Marwijk.

But he has no ulterior motives, and simply wants what’s best for Australia. When asked whether Jedinak could do a job for Australia as a central defender, Irvine added: “You see how well Timmy has done in adapting his role from a midfielder to a striker, so why not?

“Mile loves the Socceroos and being involved with the players and he’s still very much our go-to guy in terms of being the natural leader in the pack.

“It’s important to keep him involved in the squad, no matter what capacity that is in terms of position.

“Mile is one of those guys who pulls the strings around him. Yes, going deeper could be a natural transition but I personally feel he’s still got a bit more to offer in the middle of the park for club and country.”

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4 min read
Published 19 April 2018 at 1:38pm
By Dave Lewis