Taking the high road to Scotland
Tom Rogic helping launch the A-League last year with star imports Shinji Ono, Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero. Photo: Getty Images
The deal is complete, he's finally in Glasgow with Scottish giant Celtic, but Canberra soccer sensation Tom Rogic says he remains committed to representing Australia at every opportunity as he aims to fulfil his ''ultimate'' dream of playing at next year's World Cup.
Rogic has spoken of his relief at receiving the British work visa he was denied in 2011, allowing the 20-year-old to fly out of Australia on Wednesday and take up a 4½ year deal with one of the world's biggest clubs. But as he launches his career in Europe, Rogic says he is determined to remain in contention for national selection as the Socceroos endeavour to qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil.
Having debuted with the Socceroos last year, Rogic was left out of a 19-man Australian squad to play a friendly against Romania in Spain next Wednesday. But answering the club-versus-country question that ultimately confronts all of Australia's overseas-based stars, Rogic said his heart was with the Socceroos.
In action for the Socceroos last November. Photo: Getty Images
''I'd love to always make myself available for the Australian team if I was up for selection. I think Celtic would be happy to support that,'' Rogic said. ''I'd always make myself available to play for Australia.
''Representing Australia at a World Cup is a dream of mine - that's the ultimate footballing stage.''
Playing for Belconnen United in 2011. Photo: Richard Briggs
Even Rogic struggles to comprehend his rapid rise through soccer's ranks. Just two years ago he was playing with Belconnen United in the Canberra Premier League.
''If someone had told me then that in 24 months' time I would have represented my country and had interest from clubs in Europe I would have laughed at them, I couldn't have taken them seriously,'' Rogic said.
''But I've done a lot of hard work and come a long way in that time. It hasn't come easy.''
Indeed, Rogic has also had to show patience. He was was set to sign in England with now-Premier League club Reading in 2011, but was denied a work visa because he didn't have enough playing experience.
Despite establishing himself as an international representative and a star of the A-League, Rogic admitted he had been a little spooked by the prospect of missing out again.
''It was always in the back of my mind, but speaking to the people at Celtic, they were confident that it wouldn't be an issue this time around and I'm obviously in a much better position in my career as opposed to 12 months ago.
''Any young player in Australia has aspirations to go overseas and I think going to such a big club is really a good marker of how far I've come in such a short time.
''In a strange way I'm almost used to this rapid progression. With the Socceroos call-up and things like that happening this year and all the interest coming in January, it's almost become a bit natural. Hopefully I can keep this progression going.''
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
At the start of this A-League season, only Rogic's second, he posed beside Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero for promotional photos to launch the competition. Now he faces the prospect of playing against Del Piero's former Italian club, Juventus, in the European Champions League final 16. Celtic play Juventus on February 12 and March 6.
''Possibly I'd be getting a bit ahead of myself if I was aiming to be a part of that, but at the same time I believe in setting goals high and I'd love to be a part of it, whether it's on the bench or in any way, shape or form,'' he said.
Celtic was the club that kick-started the career of former Socceroos striker Mark Viduka, but some soccer analysts have questioned whether Rogic has made the right move at the right time. Rogic said he backed himself. ''At the end of the day the decision's up to me,'' he said. ''Of all the clubs that were possibilities or speculated about, this Celtic move just felt right from the start. It's hard to describe. It's such a big decision, but for me it felt quite easy.
''Whether or not it's the right move, time will tell. I don't think any move is a guaranteed safe move and I think at the end of the day if you're a good enough player you'll be able to make it anywhere. Hopefully I can do that.
''I've noticed from training the tempo and speed of play is much quicker than what I'm used to. Being around good players helps your development naturally, so I'm confident I'll be able to adapt to the step up in quality and hopefully contribute to Celtic success.''
Rogic made a big impression on the A-League in only 24 games. He was red-carded in his last match, suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle against Sydney FC in December. The Mariners have maintained their competition lead without their attacking midfielder and Rogic was confident they could complete their mission.
''What the Mariners have done this season, they've really set the bar for the league this year. Hopefully they can continue to do that and go all the way because it really is a good bunch of guys and a great club. I think they're on track and they'll be tough to beat. The squad has a lot of depth, so losing a couple of players through injuries, suspension or transfers … they'll more or less be the same squad,'' Rogic said.
Rogic admitted saying goodbye to teammates before the end of the season was tough and admitted the transition would be tougher.
''I don't think you could get more contrasting lifestyles, going from Terrigal in summer to Glasgow in winter. I guess sometimes people overlook how tough it is to move overseas and leave all your friends and family behind, go tough it out in the cold and try and make this transition into the bigger leagues. I know it's not going to be easy, but I can't wait to get started,'' Rogic said.