Reprieved Maclaren should have been in Socceroos squad from start, says Holman

Recalled Jamie Maclaren doesn’t just deserve a short-term Socceroos reprieve, he merits a seat on the plane to Russia.

That’s the verdict of the live-wire striker’s former Brisbane Roar teammate Brett Holman.

Ex-Socceroos attacker Holman - who made 63 appearances for his country and scored twice at the 2010 FIFA World Cup - believes the 24-year-old “born goalscorer” was “hard done by” to have missed out on the extended 26-man squad for Australia’s pre-World Cup camp in the first place.

“I thought he should have been picked initially and I’m delighted for him now that he’s got another shot,” Holman said.

“He’s a born goalscorer and has been Australia’s form forward of late - and really the only one playing regularly and scoring goals.”

A vacationing Maclaren was plucked off a beach in Dubai and flown to Antalya, Turkey as concerns grow over Tomi Juric, who has yet to train fully since coming into camp eight days ago as he struggles with a back injury.

There was widespread disbelief when Maclaren’s eight goals in 11 starts on loan at Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership wasn’t enough to win him selection in a squad featuring only two out-and-out strikers, Juric and 38-year-old Tim Cahill.

Excelling during his 15-game cameo in Edinburgh on loan from 2.Bundesliga side Darmstadt, Maclaren had the fourth best goals-to-minutes ratio in British football last season, behind Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane. 

Maclaren’s eight goals - five of which came in pressure games against the likes of Celtic and Rangers - were notched in just 893 minutes of playing time.

But for a missed spot-kick, his figures would have been even more impressive.

“People can say what they want about the standard of Scottish football but Jamie has been scoring in the same league as Tom Rogic, and everybody is expecting Tom to go to the World Cup and do well,” Holman added.

“I just hope he now takes his Scottish form into camp and turns a few heads.

“If Tomi struggles to get fit in time, then I’d see it as a straight swap with Jamie taking his spot and going to the World Cup.

“Regardless, he’d have been in my 26 because he’s got the ability to get in behind, he’s a constant pest up front and never gives defenders a breather. 

“He’s always on his toes and works incredibly hard for the team.”

Having arrived in Turkey on Sunday night, five-cap Maclaren was justifiably gutted to have missed out in the first place, with the news of his omission imparted to him during the lead up to his final game of the season against Rangers.

The fact he weathered that thunderbolt and went out and scored a hat-trick in a 5-5 draw speaks volumes for his mental strength, another asset in his arsenal should he get the nod for Russia.

Australia face the Czech Republic in Vienna on Friday night (AEST) in their penultimate warm-up before the World Cup opener against France in Kazan on June 16.

Their final hit out is against Hungary in Budapest on June 10.

“I know what he can bring to a team and I’m sure Bert van Marwijk will be having a very close look at him again,” added Holman, who played alongside Maclaren as he blasted 20 A-League goals in 2016-2017 to share the Golden Boot.

“It might be tough being thrown in at the deep end now because he’s missed some time in camp, but he’s very adaptable and he’s a player who thrives on confidence.

“Right now I don’t think that’s something he’s lacking.

“He turned a difficult situation in Germany with not getting game time into a real plus in Scotland and has put himself into a good position. Hats off to him for that.”

Australia’s final 23-man squad for Russia will be announced on June 4.

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4 min read
Published 28 May 2018 at 8:27pm
By Dave Lewis