Australian full-back Callum Elder has been in fine form for League One leaders Hull City this season and is targeting a return to the Championship along with a Socceroos debut.
Elder has been a regular as Hull take the English third tier by storm, currently on top of the tree with 48 points from 25 matches played, after suffering relegation last season.
The defender has caught the eye and made 26 appearances, missing just two first-team league games.
His impressive performances have him in line for what would be his first senior national team call-up at the age of 26.
“I had a couple of chats with the gaffer just as COVID-19 came to the fore at the start of last year,” Elder told The World Game.
“I think it was this time last year that the international break was called off for the Socceroos games. I had a good chat with him about where he sees things and I see things, so that was a real positive for me.
“I’ve just kept my head down this season, worked really hard, tried to play as much football as I can and showed to the manager when the time comes for the national teams to be selected again that I’m in his thinking. That’s all I can do really.”
Elder hails from the Sydney suburb of Mosman and the Manly United junior moved to England at the age of 16 to join Leicester City. In 2013, he was capped by Australia at Under-20 level.
Since then the left-back has gone on to play in the Championship, League One and League Two for Mansfield Town, Peterborough United, Brentford, Barnsley, Wigan Athletic, Ipswich Town and Hull.
“It’s always nice to have a line of contact with the national team manager,” Elder admitted.
“He was great with me, he just said keeping working hard, your time will come. It’s obviously been really difficult, everyone’s health is the main priority at this point in time.
“But it’s always been a goal of mine to represent my country. So I am really looking forward to what the future holds in that respect and I’ll be working as hard as I can to make sure that I’m in the squad.”
Elder joined the Tigers from Leicester in 2019 for an undisclosed fee but endured a difficult first campaign at the KCOM Stadium, with struggling Hull relegated to the third division.
“Sometimes it’s really difficult to shake off momentum that goes both ways,” he said.
“I think we’ve experienced both of that in the last 12 months, the back of last season and then the first six months of this season.
"You can’t look back in life, you’ve always got to look forward and we can only affect what’s in front of us now and I think the lads have shown a really good desire to get back where this football club belongs, which is competing in the top division in the country.
“There’s been a really good team spirit, team ethic, everyone’s working hard for each other. We’ve got a long way to go but all the lads are prepared to put in the graft to get the job done.”
The 2020-21 season has gone to plan for the Sydneysider and his teammates, with the east Yorkshire outfit notching 15 victories and three draws at the halfway point. However, the full-back is taking nothing for granted as of yet.
“The team’s in a good place at the minute,” Elder said.
“The nature of the season, with the pandemic, its obviously different to anything we’ve experienced before but the game’s are coming thick and fast, even more than usual. It’s been good that we’ve found a relatively consistent run of form throughout the season.
“We’re in a good place, we’ve set ourselves up for hopefully a good finish. We just need to keep our foot on the gas and keep producing wins so, come the end of the season, we achieve that promotion.
“There’s some big clubs in and around the top of the table. Clubs are in good runs of form at the moment so really it’s about us maintaining the level of form we’ve set so far this season.
“There’s still such a long way to go, which is just so crazy. We’ve come into February and I think there’s still 21 games to go. So it really is going to be a tight race come May.
“We’ve set ourselves up, given ourselves a good platform to go and achieve the success that we’ve set out as our aim.
"I’m just enjoying playing so much football, we’ve got a game every few days. I’m looking forward to what hopefully can be an exciting end to the season.”
Elder has been a fixture on the left side of Grant McCann’s defence, notching five assists and was named in League One’s team of the week in January.
The Aussie has been pleased with his own displays and has found a home at the Tigers, after proving himself during six loan spells at different clubs over a four-year spell.
“I think it’s been coupled with a consistent run of games in the last 18 months in the Championship and now in League One,” he said.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing consistent football. Physically I feel like I’m doing well and it’s good to be putting in good, individual performances but the aim for the football club as a whole is to get promotion.
“As long as I can play my part to the best of my ability, then fingers crossed, we’ll be up at the top of the table at the end of the season.
"That was the main reason why I left Leicester City with a year left on my deal.
“It was important to me at the age of 24, 25 to be playing regular football and I’ve achieved that at Hull. I really enjoyed my time here, although we had a difficult end to last season. It’s never nice to be down the bottom of the league.
“However, for myself it was all about regular minutes and establishing myself in the division. I feel settled now.
"One of the most important attributes for a footballer wherever you are in your career is to feel settled and feel like you’ve got a place where you can train and play consistently and improve as a player and as a person.
“I’m just working hard to progress my own career and help Hull City play at the highest level possible.”