Hearts defender Ryan McGowan has become the second Australian footballer in a week to be linked with a possible switch of allegiances to Scotland.
After breaking the news that Aston Villa's in-form Australian defender Chris Herd had been formally approached by Scotland, The World Game can reveal McGowan has been the subject of interest, as the Tartan Army seeks to fortify its defence.
Considered a key member of Australia's under-23 team, Adelaide-born McGowan said there had been "interest” from Scotland, before reiterating his preference to stick with the Socceroos.
“There has been a little bit of interest from Scotland,” McGowan said. “But I was born in Australia, I’ve played for my country already (at under-17, under-20s and Olyroos level) and if I am not good enough to play at senior level just now, I don’t want to react by going and jumping ship and trying somewhere else.
“It’s up to me to prove the Australian coaches wrong and get myself picked at some stage.”
The highly-rated defender refused to rule out a change allegiance. “We’ll see what happens," he said. "But for now I am firmly fixed on Australia.
"The most important thing for me and my career is to keep my head down, work hard and hopefully international call ups will follow from there.
“There hasn’t been an official approach or anything from Scotland but a few things have happened through the grapevine and I will wait and see what happens.
“When it comes to international football I don’t want to be getting too carried away ... the important thing is to get myself in the Hearts team on regular basis and things will take care of themselves from there.
“Hopefully if Socceroos coach Holger Osieck thinks I am good enough then I will be picked.
"I think it’s only because I am with Hearts that Scotland have come in for me. If I was elsewhere, it probably wouldn’t have been the case.”
When asked about whether Football Federation Australia was concerned about the reported interest from Scotland not only in McGowan but also Aston Villa defender Chris Herd, FFA technical directer Han Berger said: "We go to great lengths to monitor the performance and development of Australian players playing overseas and have a structured and organised system.
"There are several people based in Europe and they see as many players and as many matches as resources allow.
"Ryan McGowan and Chris Herd were both invited by us and they both accepted the invitations to attend a National teams training camp in Duisburg before the Qantas Socceroos match against Germany in March.
"During this camp Holger, Aurelio, Jan and I had a very good opportunity to assess their progress.
"Based on that Ryan and Chris were selected for the Olyroos Olympic qualifiers against Yemen in Australia in June.
"Ryan accepted the invitation and was on the squad, Chris declined the invitation ‘for personal reasons’.
"So it is fair to say that they are certainly on our radar and have been heavily involved in our development and monitoring systems."
McGowan began the season as right back for the Scottish Premier League club, winning man-of-the-match plaudits in the club’s season opener against Rangers.
He also produced a solid performance in Hearts’s Europa League second leg qualifier against Spurs, a 0-0 draw, after it lost the first leg 5-0.
A recent change of manager, coupled with the return of experienced right back Jamie Hamill, has consigned McGowan to the bench but the 22-year-old remains optimistic.
“Maybe the timing wasn’t so great for me because I’d just broken into the team when there was a change of manager but different coaches have different priorities and we all get along quite well with Paulo Sergio and he has some really good ideas," McGowan said.
“Hopefully I can impress him and get some more games. I need to try and give him some selection headaches.”
Having Joined Hearts in 2006, McGowan was loaned to Ayr United and Partick Thistle for three months last season before returning to Hearts before the end of that year's SPL campaign. He has made 15 senior appearances for the Edinburgh club and has two seasons left on his deal.
“It was a bit daunting leaving Australia by myself at 16 but I’ve always wanted to play professional football and to come to such a big club was a great opportunity," McGowen said.
Berger stressed that ultimately it is up to the player to choose which nation he wants to represent.
"At the end of the day the player has to make the decision," he said. "There is no doubt European clubs would prefer players were playing for European countries closer so they can easily commute to their national team duties.
"We sincerely hope that players with dual passports have an emotional attachment to their place of birth and to the green and gold and we think that counts for a lot.
"It is also worth them considering that playing for Australia now means you have a very good chance of competing in some exciting and prestigious international tournaments like the AFC Asian Cup and most importantly the FIFA World Cup finals."
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