Why every Australian footballer should be following Harry Souttar's lead
Harry Souttar's journey from on the fringes at Stoke City to one of the club's most important players is an example all Australian footballers should be aspiring to follow.
Of Scottish descent, the six-foot-six centre back rose through the youth academy ranks at Dundee United before earning a lucrative move to Stoke.
However, the 22-year-old has had to prove himself from day one at the Potters, with consecutive loan spells an all too familiar story for Aussies abroad.
The likes of Joshua Brillante, James Troisi and Aiden O'Neill have all been on the books at clubs across Europe.
But unlike Souttar, these players failed to make the most of their loan opportunities.
Instead, they landed straight back into the comfortable surroundings of the A-League.
Souttar was only 17 when he joined the Championship side; therefore, the path straight into the first-team was still out of reach.
A loan move to Ross County followed in January 2018, with Souttar's thirteen appearances enough to convince Stoke to keep him on their books.
It was his next two loan spells, both at Fleetwood Town, where Souttar would prove his worth to his current employers in a significant turning point for his career.
He initially joined Fleetwood for six months in January 2019, before extending the loan move for the 2019-20 season.
Souttar became a prominent figure under the ever-controversial Joey Barton during his time at the club.
He was awarded EFL Young Player of the Month in February, with Barton describing his attitude as "first-class" as The Fishermen finished sixth and made the playoffs.
They lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners Wycombe Wanderers.
Still, Souttar did more than enough to convince incoming Stoke boss Michael O'Neill of his talents.
Souttar made his debut for the club in September and has not looked back since, playing every minute for the club and winning the fan vote for their best player in October.
His driving run and defence-splitting pass to set up Tyrese Campbell in their 2-2 draw against Barnsley recently was a personal highlight.
So where did Souttar succeed where other Aussies haven't?
It relies on the mentality of our footballers and whether they want to play at the highest level.
Sure, it can be argued that Souttar is more of a Scottish talent than he is Australian as he completed his junior footballing years in Scotland.
But this mentality applies to any young footballer regardless of nationality.
It takes a determined and professional mentality to be able to rise above setbacks to succeed as a young footballer in Europe, which is what Souttar has shown in abundance.
He joined the club as a teenager yet he was still able to grind it out, instead of taking the easy way out back to the Scottish Premiership or even down under to the A-League.
Now it should be a no-brainer that he starts at the heart of the defence for Graham Arnold's next Socceroos starting eleven.
We can only hope that others follow his example.