Big Harry Souttar
Harry Souttar, at training in Doha on Saturday, is a key figure in Australia's Asian Cup push. Image by AP PHOTO
  • soccer

‘Rock-eroo’ Souttar is the key to Asian Cup progression

Anna Harrington January 28, 2024

Harry Souttar and Graham Arnold both know the towering Socceroo’s time in club limbo can’t be overlooked forever.

But the key centre-back and his loyal coach are putting that distraction aside as they chase Asian Cup glory.

Souttar has barely played at Leicester City in England’s second-tier recently but continues to lead Australia’s defence with aplomb, stringing together games and form at international level.

He will do so again when the Socceroos face Indonesia in the round-of-16 at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Sunday.

 Souttar knows he needs regular club football to keep his Socceroos place. Image by AP PHOTO 

“Obviously, I would have liked to play more football before I came,” Souttar told AAP.

“But I had that situation at the World Cup where I only played one first-team game and a couple of youth-team games, so I know I can do it.

“I’ve played a few games this season along with the Australia games so it wasn’t like I hadn’t played any football. I’ve been training for ages, I’ve kept myself in really good condition.

“The manager knows that and he knows what I can do. So that trust is there.

“I know obviously to continue to be in the national team, I’ve got to be playing club football – but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”

For Arnold, it is crucial to play Souttar every game, to keep him ticking over, and to provide height and structure in defence.

 His teammates were left in tears when Souttar suffered his ACL injury in a World Cup qualifier. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

The 25-year-old has told his management not to involve him in club future discussions while in Qatar – knowing crunch time will come after.

“It’s getting time for him to do something about his club career,” Arnold told AAP.

“Because I thought when he first came into camp, he was a little bit down.

“But this has picked him up again, it’s got him going again.”

The calm, assured and quietly-spoken Souttar prefers to lead with actions rather than words, noting “you can’t pretend to be someone you’re not because people see straight through it.”

His teammates love that about him..

“He’s not the most vocal I’ve played with but he has a presence,” midfielder Jackson Irvine told AAP.

“There’s players you play with throughout your career that carry this – and it’s not just because of his size.

“Mile (Jedinak) had it, Mark Milligan had it, guys where you look around, you see them beside you in the line-up, in the dressing room, on the pitch and you just think, ‘we’re okay’.

“It’s a strange feeling of comfort to be able to give your teammates, just by sheer presence – and he definitely carries that.”

Arnold considers the centre-back “crucially important” on and off the field.

“He’s such a fantastic person. I think one day he will end up a captain of the Socceroos,” he said.

“I’ve never seen so many players in tears as when he did his ACL against Saudi Arabia and in the dressing room after the game – because of him as a person, first and foremost.

“But then when we got to play UAE and Peru in the play-offs, I thought to bring ‘H’ over, bring him around the boys, and he got a standing ovation when he walked in.

“His love for playing for Australia is huge and he’s a rock. He’s the rock of the Socceroos.”