Canberra's Tom Rogic is back in the green and gold camp for their next World Cup qualifiers, after missing their last qualifiers, but Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold says he was never not up for selection.
Rogic was one of the 27-players named for Australia's World Cup qualifiers next month against China and Vietnam in Qatar.
The 28-year-old was left off the Socceroos roster back in June, for four qualifying matches, but Arnold said it was not due to his performance.
"He's always been up for selection. Tommy was always part of the 23 or so, and then, he had an ankle injury at the end of last season.
"It was about him getting his ankle fixed and ready for this next phase of World Cup qualifiers, or bringing him to Kuwait and him not getting his ankle right. Because he had to go back to Celtic straight after Kuwait, and be ready for these Europa League Champions League playoff games," he said.
"So, it was all about Tommy getting his ankle right, getting physically right, and being ready for this third phase of World Cup qualifiers."
The Celtic FC midfielder is a welcomed boost to the side, after Aaron Mooy and Daniel Arzani also both make their return to the Australian camp.
Arnold said the decision to bring Rogic, Mooy and Arzani back in was a no-brainer.
"Tommy is obviously doing fantastic with Ange [Postecoglou] at Celtics," he said.
"I do know that with Tommy it's the case that he feels the coach has a lot of belief in him, and a lot of trust in him and that he's happy in life and you can see all those things are happening at Celtic. It's great to see him back on the field and doing himself proud ... and I expect that will happen here with us in this camp."
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Arnold is having to deal with a growing number of factors when he selects his side, including injuries, COVID-19 restrictions abroad and back in Australia, and player's personal circumstances during the pandemic.
Of the 27 selected, only one A-League player, Sydney FC player Rhyan Grant, was chosen in the squad to fly to Doha for the two qualifiers. The remaining 26 are international-based players, with three debutants chosen.
In addition to Grant, Arnold said he was looking at bringing in seven or eight other A-League players, alongside some Olyroos players from the Tokyo squad, but given the quarantine requirements it was not an option.
One player the Socceroos will miss is captain Mathew Leckie, who withdrew from the national side indefinitely due to Australia's quarantine protocols. The 30-year-old signed with Melbourne City in June before announcing this week he would not be up for selection.
This is one reason Arnold hopes to get upcoming qualifiers played in Australia, however the logistics around international-based players being able to return will further impact his selection.
Arnold reiterated he understood players, such as Leckie and others, needed to make decisions based on their own circumstances. He said the Socceroos family was there to support and respect their decisions.
"I'm just here to support the players ... especially through this pandemic," Arnold said.
A knee injury also nearly caused Arnold a headache, with number one goalkeeper Mathew Ryan back in contention after being out for weeks following knee surgery.
Arnold said he was not worried about Ryan's fitness but they had brought in an extra-goalkeeper as a contingency plan.
"Obviously I've got a very close relationship with Maty, I speak to him pretty much every day, he's telling me he's ready," he said.
"And that's why we brought in an extra goalkeeper and Paul Izzo to make sure that we're covered in every position before these two games. So Mat is working hard at trainings recovered very well from the operation and we'll evaluate him when he gets here."
Socceroos 27-player squad:
- Daniel ARZANI
- Aziz BEHICH
- Martin BOYLE
- Milos DEGENEK
- Kenneth DOUGALL
- Mitchell DUKE
- Callum ELDER
- Denis GENREAU
- Rhyan GRANT
- Ajdin HRUSTIC
- Jackson IRVINE
- Paul IZZO (Gk)
- James JEGGO
- Awer MABIL
- Ryan MCGOWAN
- Riley MCGREE
- Aaron MOOY
- Tom ROGIC
- Mathew RYAN (Gk)
- Trent SAINSBURY
- Brad SMITH
- Harry SOUTTAR
- Ryan STRAIN
- Adam TAGGART
- Lawrence THOMAS (Gk)
- Danny VUKOVIC (Gk)
- Bailey WRIGHT