- England play Australia at Wembley on Saturday from 5.45am AEST
- Harry Kane’s team were widely expected to surpass the Socceroos
- Harry Souttar turned out to be a busy man in the heart of the defense
It’s one of Graham Arnold’s favorite old lines, but still a treat.
“He’s the Minister of Defense in Australia,” the Socceroos boss boomed as he looked at the large squad sitting next to him at Wembley Stadium.
On the day he aimed both barrels at politicians he considers fair-weather friends of Australian football, Arnold made it very clear that Harry Souttar really is someone you can rely on.
It has been a testing few months for the Leicester centre-back, with his club relegated to England’s second championship and then his own relegation to the sidelines as the team was revived under new boss Enzo Maresca.
But despite making a welcome start against his former club Stoke last weekend, Souttar, who has only played 85 minutes of action in the Championship all season, has never been anything other than a must-start for his adopted national team.
Socceroos star Harry Souttar is tipped to be a busy man at the heart of defense when Australia take on England at Wembley
Souttar could be tasked with containing England skipper Harry Kane (pictured)
“One hundred percent,” Arnold declared when asked if the 24-year-old remained an inspiration to his teammates.
“And when he decided to come and play for Australia with the Olympic team, it was a great moment for myself and for Australian football,” the coach said, reflecting on how the Scot with an Australian mother chose to wear the green and gold to wear in 2019.
‘The Defense Secretary’ will certainly face serious questioning during the Socceroos’ glamor friendly against England (5.45am AEST on Saturday) at Wembley, even if he is not sure who he will be defending against.
He may try to stop another Harry as captain Kane looks for goal to equal Bobby Charlton’s Wembley record of 23 for England.
But it is more likely that he will be asked to handle some of the most prolific strikers in the Premier League, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, as England experiment with their squad ahead of the European Championship qualifier next week against Italy.
Be that as it may, Souttar feels strengthened by the confidence shown in him. It’s a night that could inject new impetus into a career that has been disrupted since his World Cup heroics in Qatar and an early impressive spell after his move to Leicester.
Souttar experienced the tournament of his life when he represented Australia at the World Cup in Qatar last year (photo, with Julian Alvarez from Argentina)
“You could say that,” Souttar mused, when asked if this was a high-profile opportunity to remind people of his talent.
‘But there are only two people I need to let know I’m here – obviously this guy here (pointing to Arnold) and my club manager – they’re the ones who are going to pick me, so I’m just going to do my job as best I can.
‘For me personally it has been a season with ups and downs. Obviously I didn’t play as much as I would like, but the manager (Maresca) made it clear to the group that everyone is needed.
“That’s all I can do: be ready when I’m called upon.”
Australia will need the minister to be ready and at his best on their debut under the Wembley arch.