Catching up with the twice capped Stuart Lovell...
As the Socceroos prepare for their match against Scotland at Easter Road I caught up with the twice capped Stuart Lovell to discuss his career and his thoughts on the upcoming match. Born in Australia Lovell came through the ranks at Reading, where he went on to play over 227 first team games for the club before he moved North of the Border where he enjoyed success with Hibernian, Livingston and Queen of the South. He now works as a Player Liaison for the Scottish PFA and does regular media work for Sky and others.
Q. You were born in Australia how old were you when you moved back to your parents home the UK?
SL: "I was young, in primary school we came back to High Wickham originally, I think it was 1977-1978. I came back when I was so young so I always get people asking me about my accent saying there is no trace any more of an Aussie one in there, which I say you wouldn't either if you had been here for this long."
Q. You never managed to get a call-up during your time at Reading it wasn't until you were at Hibs that you were called-up how did that come about?
SL: I was playing in a Hibs team that was flying and I got a phone call out of the blue in September or October 2000, it was about a quarter to seven in the morning from Frank [Farina] he has a really strong Aussie accent and I remember thinking this a wind-up as I had mates who were touring Oz at the time. I remember thinking this is the worst mock-up Aussie accent ever then I suddenly realised he is actually sticking with it, it might be a legit phone call. He asked if I would be interested in coming out for a mini tournament in Dubai, it didn't matter where it was I would have come. I travelled out there thinking was I good enough for this level but the lads were so relaxed.
Q.Having left Australia at such a young age did you feel like an Aussie when you pulled on the green and gold?
SL: No one was prouder to play than I was. The jerseys that I got from playing in those two internationals have been tucked away very carefully, I couldn't tell you where most of my former kits are but I can tell you exactly where they are, they take pride of place. I don't know whether I was regarded as a fair dinkum Aussie but I felt like one.
Q. You were part of the Socceroos squad when they last played Scotland back in 2000 but didn't make it onto the pitch any memories?
SL: I was playing for Hibs against Kilmarnock on the Saturday before the Tuesday or Wednesday night game and Frank Farina had told me I would play, maybe from the start but certainly I would play some part but then I twisted my knee in the match against Kilmarnock and went and saw the physio and was told I wasn't in a fit state to play. I really enjoyed being part of the squad and enjoyed the game and the night out afterwards.
Q. How do you think this game will go?
SL: I think there a lot of similarities to the game back in 2000 when people were saying ‘well Scotland are at home they should win this.' I expect it to be a close match; Australia will definitely give them a run for their money the Socceroos will not lay down for anyone.
Q. What did you make of the team Holger picked?
SL: I read there was some reaction about could he have not tinkered a bit and tried a few unproven players. I know there are four uncapped players in the squad and suggestions he could have gone a bit further but I think if you are international manager you are on a hiding to nothing. If he picked too many and it wasn't a successful result he would get hammered. I am really keen to see how Ryan McGowan gets on as I think he has a bright future.
Q. How big a test will Scotland be for the Socceroos?
SL: I think it depends on whether Scotland click, they have some very talented players, particularly in an attacking sense. They will have to change things without Kenny Miller so they will have to tweak things so that will be interesting as there will be a different dynamic upfront.
Q. Does Scotland need a positive result after all the dramas of the off-season with Rangers?
SL: Scotland needs a pick me up for sure. When the draw came out for World Cup qualifying for Scotland people were saying it could have been worse, I don't see how it could. I think the draw is extremely difficult, Croatia are an excellent side, Serbia are an improving side, Belgium are on the up and up rapidly, Wales' ranking has rocketed so Scotland really need a confidence boost ahead of those games.
Q. What style of play can people expect from Scotland?
SL: You would like to think it would be an open match but we are not that far away from the qualifiers so this is not just a mess about. I don't think he [Craig Levein] is suddenly going to open up and play expansive football, like a second version of Barcelona or Spain.
Q. You came through the ranks at Reading and progressed into the first team there, how did you end up in Scotland?
SL: In 1998 I was weighing options of where to go I had options to go to Brighton and Port Vale and Blackpool but to be honest it was probably more to do the fact that I just liked Edinburgh as a place it was familiar having travelled through Scotland. Hibs were at a pretty low ebb the football was not what attracted me there it was the city and I just thought Hibs would improve and rise again.
Q. Did you ever contemplate returning to Australia, you were coming towards the end of your career when the A-League started was it an option?
SL: It was something that I was trying to get my head round as to what the standard would be like. I suppose there is one thing that people might look at when people come from the UK or Europe is guys coming home when their legs are gone and I think that is what the A-League has to rid itself from - this sanctuary for guys that are has-beens. I remember an agent contacted me about maybe coming back to play for Perth Glory I thought about it as around that time I was leaving Hibs but I was made a very good offer to go to Livingston, who had just been promoted to the SPL, and that season we went on the finish third and qualified for Europe so I think I made the right choice.
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