Massimo Luongo had all but given up on a Socceroos recall – until his form revival at Ipswich Town.
For the first time since 2019, the 31-year-old midfielder is in the national squad and a chance to play against England at Wembley on Saturday morning (AEDT).
“I’ve only been thinking about it for the past year that maybe there’s a chance,” 2015 Asian Cup winner Luongo said.
“I’m buzzing now but I never really got my hopes up and thought it was ever a thing again. It’s a great surprise.”
Luongo’s “buzz” was once instead a feeling of mental anguish as he battled injuries and form woes – particularly during a three-year spell at Sheffield Wednesday – in what was a dark time in his career.
He left Wednesday in September last year to join Middlesbrough, but it wasn’t until he moved to Ipswich – currently in second spot on the English Championship ladder – that he truly got himself back on track and back on the selection radar of Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.
“For a long time it was … about (me thinking) I’m getting older and maybe there was a new pathway the manager (Arnold) wanted to take, wanting to bleed in some younger players, so it’s a difficult one, when you’re not part of the set-up for a while, how to get back in,” Luongo said.
“I went to Sheffield Wednesday and my injury record wasn’t too great.
“It wasn’t a good period mentally as well, so I wouldn’t expect to be called up after a little period like that. I know how much the manager values minutes and playing.
“It was probably good for me. I could just focus on my club, focus on playing and getting back to a decent level.”
Since being in camp this week, Sydney product Luongo has noticed a more professional Socceroos set-up compared with four years ago.
“There’s more backing. There are no corners cut. Things you wouldn’t even think of are covered. They’re trying to create an atmosphere that’s as top level as you can get,” he said.
Luongo said Arnold and Ange Postecoglou – who gave him his Socceroos debut in March 2014 – were “completely different – like most managers”.
“Ange has his ways, ‘Arnie’ has his ways … but it was definitely an enjoyable time,” he said in reflecting on playing under former Socceroos coach and current Tottenham manager Postecoglou.
“What he’s doing now (at Spurs) is incredible. Every Aussie is following Tottenham now, every Aussie is secretly a Tottenham supporter.
“It’s great to watch from afar … he always leaves an impression.
“He’s just a genuine person. You can see that in his media interviews. He’s got so much passion for the game.
“He’s just hungry for success, and that’s what we have here (with Arnold).”