For a host of Socceroos (and green and gold hopefuls) the new season has already kicked off, or will this weekend.
Many Australians have inked transfers to new clubs. Some are on the brink of breaking into the first team, while others have a difficult road ahead.
Here’s the situation for a raft of Aussies around the globe in our blockbuster Roo Radar!
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James Holland, LASK
32-year-old midfielder Holland is set for his fifth season with LASK Linz in Austria’s top flight. The club finished fourth last year as the always-consistent Aussie notched 39 appearances in all competitions. He’s on the brink of reaching 150 competitive appearances for the club, and even donned the captain’s armband on occasion last year. Expect more of the same from Holland this time around.
Trent Sainsbury, KV Kortrijk
The 29-year-old Socceroos veteran had a stop-start campaign for KV Kortrijk in the Belgian first division last year, playing 17 of their 34 league games. He was out of the squad for the club’s first game then benched for the second, but started their third match of the league campaign – a 2-1 defeat. Hopefully the stalwart centre-back can maintain his place in the starting side this year.
Zach Duncan, AGF
The 21-year-old started once and came off the bench in the second league game to kick off the season, but hasn’t featured in their two most recent league clashes. Duncan fought back from an ACL tear last year to earn his spot in the side in the closing stages of last season, and appears set for another battle for a starting role.
Alex Gersbach, AGF
The 24-year-old left back has had a difficult start to the season, with just three appearances off the bench in all competitions to date, including featuring in just one of four league games. It continues a tough run at the Danish club, with Gersbach featuring just six times in all competitions last season.
Awer Mabil, Midtjylland
25-year-old Mabil has made seven appearances so far this season, despite persistent rumours of a transfer. That largely revolved around claims of homesickness – but it’s certainly not showing in his efforts on the field.
Mabil scored a crucial goal as his side knocked Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic out of the Champions League qualification. In his last appearance, he emerged off the bench and banged in a goal and assist in just 26 minutes, a timely reminder to the coach of just how valuable the Aussie flyer can be.
Lawrence Thomas, SonderjyskE
The former Melbourne Victory gloveman kicked off the new campaign in perfect fashion, with two clean sheets in the first two games. In the next two, he let in three goals. Nevertheless, after starting every league game last season the 29-year-old is locked in as the club’s first choice between the sticks. He’ll face Mabil’s Midtjylland this weekend.
Daniel Arzani, Manchester City
Still a Manchester City player, technically, Arzani has bounced around from club to club in recent years thanks to a torrid run of injuries. Now he’s expected to join another City Group franchise Lommel SK on loan. The 22-year-old appeared off the bench for the Belgian second-tier club over the weekend, scoring 10 minutes after being substituted on in the friendly match.
Regular minutes are a must if Arzani hopes to get his promising career back on track. And after three mixed appearances at the Olympics, moving to a smaller division and away from the limelight could be just what he needs.
Jay Rich-Baghuelou, Crystal Palace
He hasn’t represented Palace’s first-team yet, but the big 21-year-old defender is an outside chance to take on the Premier League. He guided the U-23 squad to the Premier League 2 division last season, and was rewarded by making the Olyroos squad for Tokyo, with one appearance off the bench. More time in the U23 squad this season is likely, but who knows what can happen when the world’s biggest league kicks off this weekend.
Caleb Watts, Southampton
The 19-year-old midfielder made four senior appearances for the Saints last season, including three off the bench in the Premier League. And while manager Ralph Hassenhuttl has a strong record of developing young talent, it’s rather unlikely Watts can force his way into the starting XI anytime soon (though we’ll keep our fingers crossed). Since returning from Olyroos duty in Tokyo, Watts played the full 90 in a pre-season friendly victory for the U-23 side, and will likely get plenty of minutes for that squad in the PL2 competition.
Kenny Dougall, Blackpool
After making his Socceroos debut in June, Dougall has had a difficult pre-season upon his return to newly-promoted Championship side Blackpool. He picked up a knee injury in training and has not appeared in any matches so far. But his manager Neil Critchley says he’s still a chance to feature in the league opener on Saturday night (midnight AEST). The 28-year-old is a fan favourite at the Seasiders, having scored twice at Wembley in the playoff final last season to seal Blackpool’s return to the second tier after a six-year absence.
Tyrese Francois, Fulham
With Fulham dropping out of the Premier League after a disappointing season, the club is undergoing a rebuild under new coach Marco Silva. And 21-year-old Australian Tyrese Francois is already forcing himself into the first-team after an impressive pre-season, including a defence-splitting pass to set up the only goal in the club’s final pre-season friendly.
Then Francois was picked to start the opening Championship match of the season, anchoring the midfield at the base of the 4-2-3-1 formation alongside Josh Onomah. Fulham drew 1-1 in what was Francois’ first senior competitive start, and just his fourth ever competitive appearance for the club.
“For such a young guy, his maturity levels are so high,” Onomah said after the match. “During pre-season he was a boss, dictating play, and credit to the Manager for putting him in.
“It just goes to show, if you train well he’ll give you a chance, and Tyrese has done that. Him and Fabio (Carvalho), they’ve come in and really shown their talents.”
After coming through Fulham’s Academy and making his Premier League debut off the bench in the final game of last season, Francois’ hard work is finally paying off.
Riley McGree, Birmingham City
McGree has extended his loan deal with the second-tier squad from MLS expansion side Charlotte FC, whose introduction into the USA competition was delayed until 2022 due to Covid-19. McGree will remain with Birmingham until the end of the 2021 calendar year.
After a run of appearances after joining the club in October last year, he was frozen out of the side, making just one appearance in the following 24 league games. But he finished the season strongly, playing their last seven league games – and providing hope he can regain the kind of form he displayed at Adelaide before his move to England.
He came off the bench over the weekend in a cup win, having performed well in two appearances for the Olyroos in Tokyo.
Harry Souttar, Stoke
Souttar is one of Australia’s hottest prospects, something only reinforced by a stellar Olympics campaign in which he played every minute for the Olyroos. It capped off a busy 2020-21 season in which he played 49 games for club and country and his development continued apace. The towering defender was linked to a trio of Premier League clubs this transfer window – Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Wolves – but appears content to stay with Stoke and push for promotion. He signed a contract extension in February that will see him remain at the club until mid-2025, or at least boost his transfer value if he does opt to move on.
In his first start this season, 22-year-old Souttar captained the club to a 2-1 victory in the Carabao Cup. He headed home a corner in the 77th minute, the decisive goal against his former loan club Fleetwood Town.
Ajdin Hrustic, Eintracht Frankfurt
The only Aussie in the German flight this season, Hrustic will be hoping to add to his 11 appearances in the Bundesliga from last year. Three of those – including his only start and only goal – came in the final three matches of the season, before he made four outstanding appearances for the Socceroos in June. At 25, he’ll be keen to take a big step up and prove himself in one of Europe’s top five leagues, but was left out of the squad completely for the club’s opening cup game. However, he did score a 16-minute brace in a pre-season friendly, and drew plenty of praise from manager Oliver Glasner post-match.
“He is incredibly ambitious and wants to implement everything,” Glasner said. “Not only did he score two goals, but he also shifted the game very well. He was also very strong in tackles.”
Giants Borussia Dortmund await in their first league game on Sunday morning AEST.
Brandon Borrello, Dynamo Dresden
Borrello’s start to life at Dresden was fantastic, starting all three of their first matches this season and going unbeaten, while picking up one man of the match award. But he suffered a broken metatarsal on his left foot in training early this week and has been ruled out until further notice. It’s a cruel blow for the 26-year-old midfielder who arrived at the newly-promoted second-tier club from SC Freiburg in June.
John Iredale, SC Padeborn
The 22-year-old striker was on the books at Bundesliga club Wolfsburg, but was let go after his contract expired at the end of last season. Iredale had impressed with Wolfsburg’s reserves in the fourth tier though and was subsequently picked up by Padeborn, who were relegated from the top flight last season.
“The biggest thing for me is to be playing first team football,” he told SBS in April.
“Unfortunately at Wolfsburg I was injured in my first year and then COVID came along and I really didn’t get a chance to show myself, and push on to the first team squad.
“Joining Paderborn will put me on a great platform to play senior football and show everyone what I can do.”
He missed out on the squad which faced Borrello’s Dresden in the cup last weekend, and hasn’t featured yet this season.
Jackson Irvine, St. Pauli
Irvine departed Scottish side Hibernian on a free transfer last month and moved to the historic club in Germany’s second tier. But he hasn’t featured yet, nor been on the bench, believed to be due to due to the Aussie needing to build his fitness for the new season.
28-year-old was one of the Socceroos’ top performers in the recent World Cup Qualifying stage, adding plenty of goals to his usual array of assists.
Fran Karacic, Brescia
Karacic burst out of the blue into the Socceroos side this year, and he’s about to kick off another campaign in Italy’s second-tier Serie B. The left-back plays for Brescia under legendary Italian striker turned coach Filippo Inzaghi, and started in the club’s latest pre-season win over Mantova.
Brescia finished seventh in the division last year and failed to seal promotion through the play-offs, while Karacic – who only joined in January – played 16 of their 21 league games since his arrival.
The stage is set for another strong season for the 25-year-old, with promotion firmly in their sights.
Ryan McGowan, Kuwait SC
31-year-old defensive star McGowan has cashed in with a big-money move to Kuwait SC after a couple of hugely impressive seasons with Sydney. The club finished third last season, while the new season won’t kick off until late October.
Danny Vukovic, N.E.C Nijmegen
The veteran gloveman returned home to Sydney earlier this year for the birth of his second child Axel, after a strong few seasons in Belgium.
He pulled on the Green and Gold against Chinese Taipei in June – his first international since November 2018 – and has now signed for newly-promoted Dutch Eredivisie club NEC Nijmegen.
The 36-year-old’s campaign is set to begin this weekend against heavyweights Ajax.
Martin Boyle, Hibernian
Five games, five starts, five goals. Martin Boyle is on fire this season and has led Hibernian to the top of the Scottish Premiership ladder as one of only three teams to win their opening two games of the Scottish season.
After netting 15 goals and notching 12 assists last season, Boyle laughed off rumours of a move to Celtic or the Premier League – and is back scoring for fun.
Coach Jack Ross said: “Martin has been brilliant for me since I came to the club … Last season, his numbers for goals and assists were outstanding, and he’s started this season exactly the same.”
He added: “For me he’s as good as anyone in the country in that position, and long may it continue because he’s a major asset for us.”
Ashley Maynard-Brewer, Ross County
Watching on as Boyle scored on the weekend was Olyroos goalkeeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer, an unused substitute for Ross County.
Maynard-Brewer inked a year-long loan from English League One club Charlton Athletic just days ago. He’s not the first Aussie to play there either, as both Jackson Irvine and Harry Souttar enjoyed loan spells at County early in their careers.
At 22, the gifted gloveman has only made a handful of senior appearances so far in his career and is hoping this year will prove a breakthrough season. Whether that will be in cup competitions or in the league remains to be seen.
“Ashley has come through one of the most well-respected Academies in the UK, and we would like to thank Charlton Athletic FC for allowing us to help further develop his career,” Ross County manager Malky Mackay said.
Maynard-Brewer travelled to Tokyo but did not appear.
Tom Rogic, Celtic
Rogic’s future at the Hoops has been in doubt for some time, as his nine seasons at the club have slowly seen his influence and playing time diminish – not least due to a series of fitness issues. He was even on the brink of leaving to Qatar at the end of the 2019-20 season, a move that collapsed at the last minute.
But he’s been handed a second chance by the arrival of Australian coach Ange Postecoglou, who has worked with the playmaker with both the Socceroos and Melbourne Victory.
Rogic came off the bench in Celtic’s first four competitive matches this season, and finally was given his first start on the weekend in a 6-0 league win over Dundee. Rogic impressed on and off the ball, scoring once.
Postecoglou after the game spoke of Rogic’s disrupted pre-season and the need to increase his involvement slowly, but was full of praise for his countryman.
“He’s still got the quality – you could see it in training and he was great on Sunday. It wasn’t just on the ball. He also worked hard defensively if we needed him.”
He added: “It’s about the collective for me. I know Tom can create, and what he brings to the table. He’s a perfect fit for the kind of football I want to play. If he keeps working hard, as he has been, then I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.”
At 28, this appears Rogic’s last chance to prove himself at the elite European level. He is clearly still motivated, having been spotted pulling double sessions last month to regain his fitness. And with a manager he trusts – and who believes in him – this season could deliver a long-awaited Rogic renaissance.
Dylan McGowan, Kilmarnock (2nd tier)
Another one of the Scottish corps, McGowan moved from Western Sydney to second-tier Kilmarnock in June. He hasn’t fully established himself in the squad yet, having played one full League Cup win and making just a three-minute cameo in the league so far. It’s still early days though, and we expect plenty more as Kilmarnock chase promotion.
Milos Degenek, Red Star Belgrade
Another player being eased into action, the 27-year-old centre defender has started his last two games for Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade. One of those was a Champions League qualifying defeat that now sees him in a knockout qualifier for the Europa League. After 47 club appearances last season Degenek appears locked in for another busy campaign.
Mat Ryan, Real Sociedad
After six months on loan to Arsenal, Socceroos No.1 Mat Ryan opted to move to Real Sociedad in La Liga – ending four years in England with Brighton.
Things haven’t started perfectly, with a knee cartilage injury in training last month forcing him into surgery and meaning he’ll miss the season opener against Barcelona this weekend. He’s confident of returning by the end of the month.
Ryan revealed his brutal axing from Brighton last year was a difficult period, but says he’s moved on.
“I was a bit blindsided by how it all played out, back at Christmas there [at Brighton],” Ryan said on Wednesday. “Obviously when something is personal to you it feels like a personal attack on you and all that.
“When you are able to step away and look at it, I’m not the first person to be dropped or not wanted by a team – it happens to everyone. It was what it was.”
Aziz Behich, Istanbul Basaksehir
Behich appears set for another move within Turkey ahead of the new season, with multiple local reports claiming he is nearing a loan deal to newly-promoted Giresunspor. Behich spent last year out on loan to fellow Turkish Super Lig club Kayserispor, making 34 league appearances last campaign in one of his strongest years in some time. The 30-year-old hasn’t appeared for Basaksehir in any pre-season matches, meaning his latest deal appears a formality.
Brad Smith, Seattle Sounders
The 27-year-old fullback continues to go from strength to strength in the MLS. He’s featured in 17 of Seattle’s 18 league games this season, the club sitting second in the Western Conference and just one point behind Kansas City. He has played an important role in Seattle conceding just 14 goals from their 18 games – the best record in the entire competition.
In France, A-League side Macarthur sold 22-year-old midfielder Denis Genreau to second-tier side Toulouse.
In Greece, Apostolous Giannou (31) has been joined at OFI Crete by Bruce Kamau (26) from the Western Sydney Wanderers
In Israel, 34-year-old Nikita Rukavytsya departed Maccabi Haifa after five successful years and 175 appearances. Reports from Greece said his agent had reached out to Super League clubs Panathinaikos and Aris. He has also been in talks with other Israeli clubs and Turkish side Giresunspor.
Also in Israel, Ryan Strain (24) joined Maccabi Haifa from Adelaide, and has made one brief substitute appearance for his new club.
In Japan, striker Adam Taggart (28) has made three appearances in the last month for top-flight club Cerezo Osaka. Gloveman Mitch Langerak (32) continues his stunning run for Nagoya Grampus, playing every minute of their league campaign this year – and racking up the clean sheets. Meanwhile Olyroos star Thomas Deng (24) hasn’t featured since his Olympics campaign.
Also in Japan, Mitch Duke (30) made his first start since moving to second-tier side Fagiano Okayama on the back of his two assists at the Olympics.