• Jackson Irvine in action for the Socceroos (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
Dynamic midfielder Jackson Irvine is fast becoming the driving force behind the Socceroos’ campaign for a fifth straight appearance in the FIFA World Cup.
Philip Micallef

SBS The World Game
12 Jun 2021 - 8:49 AM  UPDATED 12 Jun 2021 - 8:51 AM
The Melbourne-born motor, who is a free agent after completing his short stint with Hibernian, could have opted to play for Scotland a decade ago because his father Steve was born in Aberdeen.
Irvine, who is now 28, even played for the Scots at under-19 level but after declaring his allegiance to Australia he made his full green and gold debut in 2013 when he came on aa a late substitute in a friendly match against Canada in London. 
Scotland’s pain became Australia’s gain because the lanky midfielder would flourish as an indispensable cog in current coach Graham Arnold’s machine.
In his first appearances for the Socceroos, Irvine came across as an inhibited newcomer who was trying to feel his way in new surroundings. 
Irvine in fact had to wait for a long time to be rewarded with a regular starting spot.
Coaches Ange Postecoglou, Bert van Marwijk and Arnold saw something in this young free spirit who was willing to run himself into the ground that the pundits at large might have missed.
He was named in Australia’s 2018 World Cup squad and made three appearances as a substitute.
However it was always clear that his role in Russia would be that of an understudy to the more gifted if less athletic Tom Rogic.
In fact, Jackson’s three cameo appearances off the bench came when he came on as a late replacement for Rogic.
Fast forward three years and Irvine has emerged as the closest Australia has come to producing the complete box-to-box midfielder.
He has played in all but one of Australia’s seven matches in the current qualifying phase - he was rested in the second meeting with ChineseTaipei - and he underlined his importance to the team’s functionality with a top-class performance against Nepal that helped seal Australia’s qualification for the next phase.

Irvine is nominally a holding midfielder but his technical ability has improved to such a degree that he now has the confidence to carry the team forward with his drive, vision and passing accuracy.

He was in fine touch against the Nepalis in a comfortable 3-0 win and he even found time to make a goal for his former Hibernian teammate Martin Boyle with a low cross of such surgical precision that the forward could not possibly miss.
All in all, Jackson was a tower of strength for the Socceroos in the middle of the park. 
And with relative newcomer Ajdin Hrustic’s numbers of high class again catching the eye, Arnold now knows for sure that the national team is developing a very strong midfield that has a lethal blend of steel, flair and - perhaps most importantly - consistency.
There is no doubt that the national team will face much stiffer opposition in the next phase of qualifying.
The likes of Kuwait, Chinese Taipei, Nepal and Jordan were never going to be anything more than easy targets.
But having a solid performer like Irvine who has the ability to dominate a game with his non-stop commitment, the Socceroos can be entitled to dream of reaching the promised land in Qatar next year.