Breakthrough Socceroos defender James Meredith has pledged to become the overnight sensation who goes the distance after emerging as coach Ange Postecoglou's latest bolter on the road to Russia 2018.
Just two months ago it was case of "James who?" to many Australia fans after the Bradford City left-back landed a surprise call-up for Australia’s FIFA World Cup qualifier in Jordan.
He didn’t play in the 2-0 loss in Amman but took his chance with gusto when incumbent Jason Davidson succumbed to a calf injury in this month's 3-0 victory over Kyrgyzstan in Canberra. Meredith started again in the 4-0 romp over Bangladesh in Dhaka four days later.
By then, though, he had done more than enough to prove to Postecoglou that it’s now game-on between him and Huddersfield Town's Davidson for a starting spot in what was once a problem position for Australia.
Determined not to disappear back into the ether as quickly as he emerged, Meredith announced his intention to keep the pressure on Davidson in the build-up to March’s final two Group B qualifiers against Tajikistan and Jordan on home soil, with Australia now back atop the group.
“Jason’s a good player and has been the number one left-back for some time now and for good reason, but it’s obviously good for the boss to have competition in this position," he said.
“I am going to just keep doing what the manager wants and I'm not going to let go of this opportunity lightly.
“The coach really motivates the boys with his team talks and you leave camp with an added desire to be really successful in everything you do for the national team.
“His message to me after the games was just go back to England and keep going and keep working hard, and that's what I intend to do.
“I am going to do everything I can to stay fit and healthy, and the thought of being involved again for the games in March are huge for me, especially with one of the matches potentially being in my home town of Melbourne."
Given full rein to indulge his attacking instincts against two sides which came to defend deep, Meredith looked composed, threatening and brimming with verve and adventure against Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh.
He was withdrawn on the hour in Dhaka after picking up a foot injury which kept him out of action for the Bantams at the weekend as they won 2-0 at Scunthorpe to go seventh in League One and is likely to miss out again on Wednesday morning (AEDT) for the visit of Coventry City.
He admitted to being surprised at landing his debut in Canberra, with Postecoglou not willing to risk Davidson for that match.
“For sure, it was a bit of a shock but it was a nice one," Meredith said.
"It was really a dream come true or me and I was really up for the game. My family flew up that day from Melbourne when they found out I was playing, and it was special for me.
“I just wanted to put on the best performance I could and I was pretty pleased with the way I played.
“It’s a lot easier when you are surrounded by such good players. In both games, Ange made sure that his fullbacks pushed right up and tried to find space out wide.
“It was shame for me that I picked up the injury against Bangladesh because I played on with it for a bit in the second half and struggled to make an impact.
“But the result was pleasing, it probably should have been more than 4-0 but our finishing was a bit off after half time.”
After all but resigning himself to flying under the radar indefinitely with the national team, Meredith is benefiting from Postecoglou's willingness to hand opportunities to players from far and wide, just as he did with fellow defender Bailey Wright and midfielder Massimo Luongo when they were also in League One.
Success quickly unfolded for them and Meredith is the latest beneficiary.
"It’s been great to get that exposure and it’s been a long time coming, I am trying to make the most of it," he said.
“Hopefully I can join the other lads (Luongo and Wright) in the Championship next season also.
“We're on a great run at the moment (with six wins and three draws from their last nine games) and are only seven points off the top (with a game in hand).
“I think we definitely have the side to go up and we’ve been finding that bit of consistency at the right time.”