James Jeggo is turning up the heat on the Socceroos establishment as he bids to transition from support act to leading man when Australia’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign kicks off against Kuwait.
Leapfrogging the likes of Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo and Jackson Irvine in the midfield mix is the goal for the Austria Wien midfielder ahead of Wednesday morning’s (AEST) clash in the Middle East.
The race is on to fill the chasm left by skipper Mile Jedinak’s international retirement, and Jeggo has been quietly and effectively stating his case as a viable alternative in a holding role for his country.
Graham Arnold handed the 27-year-old his first full start - and only his second cap - in June’s 1-0 friendly loss to Korea Republic.
In what was an experimental line-up, the coach was fully vindicated with Jeggo’s energy and dynamism catching the eye during a tireless 90-minute shift.
Whether he gets another chance to impress in Kuwait City remains to be seen but Arnold has made no secret of his growing admiration for the Austrian-born number six.
“With the depth we have in midfield everybody is pushing each other hard and it can only be beneficial for the team as a whole,” Jeggo said.
“We’ve had that depth for a while with Mile and Millsy (Mark Milligan) (being) outstanding defensive midfielders over the past decade or so.
“Even now with Mass, Aaron, Jackson and Musti (Mustafa Amini) doing really well there’s still huge depth in that area.
“It’s about trying to impress and make an impact every time you go into camp and I was lucky enough to get a couple of chances over the last year.
“The Korea game was an opportunity for boys who haven’t been involved as much and hopefully I put my best foot forward there.
“Arnie is all about building depth in all areas of the squad because you never know what you’ve got in the players until they are tested.
“Every time you go into camp it just gives you that thirst for more.”
Whether he features or not against Kuwait, Jeggo underlined the importance of beginning the quest for Qatar with a display of authority and composure against the side Australia crushed 4-0 last October in his first game back in charge of the national team.
Kuwait got off to a flier in crushing group minnows Nepal 7-0 in their opener but face a vastly different proposition in Australia.
“We need to make a statement and set a marker for the rest of the qualification campaign,” Jeggo added.
“It’s a long one and we want to keep progressing and take our performances to another level.”
Jeggo believes Adam Taggart - the 16-goal sensation of the K League 1 so far this season - can provide extra finishing thrust.
Australia have been crying out for a reliable goal source since Tim Cahill’s departure, and Taggart has been hailed by many as a possible heir.
“Taggs is doing really well in Korea and you see his quality being in camp with him,” Jeggo said.
“With Jamie Maclaren and Apo (Apostolos Giannou) you also have two other strikers with massive qualities.
“Apo has always done well when he’s stepped in with the national team and Jamie has proved time and again that he knows where the goal is.
“And that’s before we even get into players playing a little bit further back like Awer (Mabil) and Mathew Leckie.
“I think there’s more than enough firepower there for us.”