Uncapped defender Gethin Jones insists representing Australia was always his first choice.
Handed a shock call-up to the Socceroos’ Asian Cup squad, Jones – who plies his trade for Bolton in England’s third tier – was born in Perth but spent most of his formative years in Wales.
The 28-year-old, who won caps and even captained national youth teams in his adopted country, said in a 2017 interview “I feel more Welsh than Australian”.
Fast forward seven years and Jones has been called up by Graham Arnold and will be in line to win his first Socceroos cap when Australia take on Bahrain in a friendly in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
“Arnie and (assistant coach) Rene (Meulensteen) have been coming to the games at Bolton for a few months,” Jones said.
“I knew they were watching, then Rene contacted me. I met up with Rene then all of a sudden I got a call from Arnie asking if I wanted to play for the Socceroos.
“I’ve always loved Australia, I was born in Perth and it just seemed like a normal process for me, like living back in Wales at a young age going through the youth levels.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to represent my country of birth.
“As soon as I got the phone call asking me to play for Australia I was over the moon.”
Arnold has made a habit of convincing dual-eligible players to commit for Australia.
Martin Boyle, Jason Cummings and Harry Souttar could all have played for Scotland but were persuaded to represent the Socceroos after discussions with the persuasive head coach.
Jones is comfortable playing as a fullback on either side, and his introduction to the squad has been made smoother by the fact he and Souttar spent time together at English league club Fleetwood Town.
“I’m not going to lie, walking into a room with so many fresh faces, it is nerve-racking,” Jones said.
“(But) you can tell it’s a proper family environment, (it) makes you feel welcome.
“I’ve known Harry for a few years now, so it was really easy for me, knowing in making my decision that if I was going to come in I’d be alongside Harry Souttar.
“We work well together and it’s great to see him doing so well at club level and for the Socceroos.”