Harry Souttar - the gargantuan defender described as a “beast” by Socceroos coach Graham Arnold - is monstering strikers in the Championship in what promises to be a breakthrough season at Stoke City.
After 18 months out on loan at League One Fleetwood Town, 198cm Socceroo Souttar is devouring the challenge in England’s second-tier thanks to the belief shown in him by coach Michael O’Neill.
He’s yet to finish on the losing team in two Championship and three Carabao Cup appearances for the Midlands club, who now host Tottenham in the last eight.
And Souttar - who scored twice on debut for Australia in a 5-0 stroll against Nepal a year ago - is taking the elevation in his stride.
“Before the start of the season, the boss said to me ‘I don’t see any point in you going back to League One because you’ve done that for the last 18 months. I want you to stay here and fight for your place’,” explained Souttar.
“I agreed with him ... I want to be here and playing and I’ve started five games (in all competitions).
“Hopefully I maintain that place going forward - things have worked well and I hope it continues.
“I’m playing with some quality players here ... it’s been my goal to breakthrough ever since coming down from Dundee United (nearly five years ago).
“I’ve done it the hard way but that’s what I wanted to do by going out and playing games at an early age (at Fleetwood).
“I loved my time there and massive credit to the gaffer Joey Barton for giving me a chance and giving me so many games. That’s been massive for my development.
“The end goal was always to get first-team games at Stoke. Things are going well now but I’ve got to keep working hard and doing what I’m doing.”
The Potters were still a Premier League side when Souttar arrived but now find themselves entering their third season in the Championship, one of world football’s toughest and most remorseless competitions.
The “beast” moniker might belie the more subtle aspects to Souttar’s game, which isn’t just all about aerial domination and tenacious ball-winning doctrines.
“I think there’s often a misconception about players being so big and tall but maybe not being so good on the ball,” he added.
“Obviously I have those attributes in the air but as a team, we like to play out from the back, and that was the case even with the under-23s at Stoke and also Dundee United.
“That’s the way I’ve been brought up to play. The same is true with the Socceroos and the Olyroos (under Arnold).
“When I first became involved with Australia I saw that similarity.
“The Australia midfielders are second to none and you always want to get your best players on the ball.”
The next 12 months are looking hectic for Souttar, with an Olympic Games appearance set for July in Tokyo in addition to a raft of FIFA World Cup qualifiers, beginning in March.
“If I get selected it’s going to be a busy time but that’s what every player wants, to be playing as much as you possibly can,” he added.
“It was gutting that the Olympics were postponed (due to the coronavirus) but people’s health comes first and you could argue that with another year of experience under our belts we’ll be a lot stronger come next July. I can’t wait.”
Souttar took to heart the message from Arnold to be playing as much as possible at the highest attainable level going into 2021.
“He told us to make sure you’re playing first-team football when we last got together,” he added.
“When I came back to Stoke I had a little eye on the national team and I thought if I want to be involved there I’ll probably have to go out on loan to be playing first-team football and get selected,” he explained.
“But if I’m playing for the Stoke hopefully I’ll put myself in the boss’s head.”
Souttar, whose older brother John has been capped by Scotland, is delighted he opted for the land of his West Australian mother Heather.
“When I choose Australia I had my reasons and my family are very supportive of that,” said Aberdeen-born Souttar.
“I’m just looking forward to playing again for them one day soon.”