Meet the midfielder aiming to be a Socceroos World Cup bolter

There's an unheralded Australian earning accolades on the doorstep of Netherlands-based Soccerooos coach Bert van Marwijk - and he's plotting a late charge for 2018 FIFA World Cup selection.

Sparta Rotterdam midfielder Kenneth Dougall doesn't receive a fraction of the fanfare showered on the likes of Aaron Mooy, Mile Jedinak, Tom Rogic or Massimo Luongo.

But he's constructing a strong case for a seat on the plane to Russia with his best season yet in his four years in Holland.

Uncapped at senior level, Brisbane-born Dougall has made four Olyroos appearances and remains eligible for Australia, Scotland and Thailand, courtesy of his Scottish dad and Thai mum.

But his heart is with his homeland and he's anticipating that van Marwijk will, in the coming weeks, take the time to assess whether he fits the green and gold mould.

While the Red and White Gladiators are six points from safety at the foot of the Eredivisie, Dougall has played all 24 league games and is bristling with belief.

He can operate as a centre-back or left-back but feels most at home as a holding midfielder.

"It's hard to know what Bert van Marwijk is thinking without talking to him," he said.

"But I'm playing every week and I feel like I'm playing quite well.

"It (selection for March's friendlies against Norway and Colombia) is not something I'm expecting, but if it happens then fantastic.

"I am sure he (van Marwijk) will come and watch me ... then it's obviously up to him whether he thinks I'm good enough.

"The chance to go to a World Cup is every boy's dream, and I'm no different."

Dougall admits his father's side of the family would be delighted if Scotland came calling, but he has no doubts where his allegiances lie.

"I'm a Brisbane boy, but we did live in Scotland for a few years and also Thailand," he said.

“There’s never been an approach from Scotland. If there was it would be great for my dad but I favour Australia, it’s the option for me.”

Dougall acknowledges how tough it will be to force his way into a squad blessed with gifted midfielders.

"Obviously one of the strengths of the (current) national team is that area," Dougall said.

"It's always going to be difficult to break in. But if I keep improving then hopefully one day I will be there.

"I think I'm playing the best football of my career so far. I only began playing professionally at 21 (after a formative spell at Brisbane City)."

Three-time Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat arrived at Sparta last month to try and mastermind another great escape for the country's oldest club, who avoided the relegation play-offs on the last day of last season thanks to one goal and two assists from Australian Craig Goodwin against Go Ahead Eagles.

Dougall bagged his first of the season in last weekend's 2-1 home loss to leaders PSV Eindhoven.

"Things aren't ideal in terms of our league position," he said.

"We need to start winning - this weekend is a big one against FC Twente, who are just above us.

"The boss (who arrived in January) is vastly experienced. He says what he thinks, he doesn't hide anything and is quite clear what he wants.

"He's letting us play with a bit more freedom, which I think is benefiting us although the results haven't yet gone the way we really want.

"I definitely think we can stay up. Since the turn of the year the defeats have only been by a single goal, and we've had the one win.

"We just need that one result that changes the season, and hopefully that will come this week.

"If (van Marwijk) comes to have a look, hopefully I can pop up with another goal."

Meanwhile Goodwin, with six of his 18 league appearances off the bench, hasn't made the impact he'd hoped for this season.

"It's disappointing for him because he hasn't played as much as he would have liked," Dougall said.

"It's frustrating for him but the quality is still there - and hopefully the manager can look at him again."

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4 min read
Published 16 February 2018 at 2:24pm
By Dave Lewis