Connor Metcalfe
No.24 Connor Metcalfe joins Jackson Irvine (R) in the huddle after St Pauli's third sealing goal. Image by AP PHOTO
  • soccer

Irvine, Metcalfe join Socceroos in Europe’s big leagues

May 13, 2024

Euphoric Socceroo Jackson Irvine says he’s completed what he set out to achieve with St Pauli after leading the cult German club back into the Bundesliga to earn his first shot at the top-flight of one of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues.

Irvine and Connor Metcalfe are the latest Socceroos to join the growing band of Australian players among Europe’s elite after their triumph with their German club.

The cult Hamburg-based St Pauli, much admired as Europe’s most bohemian ‘hipster’ outfit, roared back into the top division on Sunday with a 3-1 win over relegated Osnabruck in Bundesliga 2.

Oladapo Afolayan scored twice and set up Marcel Hartel for St Pauli’s third as they moved to the head of the ladder and were guaranteed promotion as one of the league’s top two.

The win also put them in pole position to win the second division title with one game left.

For 31-year-old Irvine, promotion in his first season as captain caps a love affair with the club he joined three years ago.

St Pauli are renowned for an alternative fan scene and left-wing supporter base, as well as for supporting social community projects and minorities.

“My emotions are going crazy. I’ve never felt anything like it,” Irvine told the club’s website.

“Gratitude, joy, simply everything. I’m completely overwhelmed. It’s just incredible to see how much it means to people, not just us. Unglaublich (incredible).

“This is why I came here. I wanted to achieve something for the fans and give the people something, and we’ve done that by getting promoted.

“It’s a huge honour to be captain of this team, something I don’t take for granted.”

Promotion gives Irvine a first chance at playing in one of Europe’s top-five leagues after a successful career in the Scottish Premiership and the lower tiers in England.

He and 24-year-old Metcalfe, who signed from Melbourne City in 2022, have been right at the heart of St Pauli’s return to the Bundesliga for the first time in 13 years.

“We had belief going into the game. We were prepared,” Irvine said.

“We gave our all, our hearts, and we worked so hard and now we have this moment together. Amazing.”

The midfield duo are not the only Australian players set for a taste of European soccer’s high life next season.

Ipswich Town pair Massimo Luongo and Cam Burgess have earned promotion to England’s Premier League, while goalkeeper Joe Gauci is awaiting his shot at Aston Villa.

Harry Souttar has another chance of playing in the Premier League too following Leicester’s return to the top-flight, although he may depart the club after rarely featuring in the Foxes’ promotion charge.

But his fellow Socceroos defender, 20-year-old Alessandro Circati, is set for a taste of Serie A football in Italy after being promoted from the second tier with champions Parma.

Uncapped teen sensation Nestory Irankunda will complete his move to Bayern Munich over the off-season.