Tom Rogic Melbourne move aids World Cup hopes

TOM ROGIC believes his move to Celtic has not hindered his development, despite starting just five games for the Scottish champions in the past year.

Tom Rogic: Loaned to Melbourne for the season. Picture: Getty
Tom Rogic: Loaned to Melbourne for the season. Picture: Getty

The Australian midfielder yesterday completed a return to his homeland in a loan deal until the end of the season with Melbourne Victory. It is intended to provide him with the regular first-team football needed to secure his place in Australia’s squad for this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.

Rogic joined Celtic from New South Wales club Central Coast Mariners in January 2013 for a fee of around £400,000. But the rangy playmaker, regarded as one of his country’s brightest prospects, has been unable to hold down a place in Neil Lennon’s side.

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He has made just 15 first-team appearances for Celtic, ten of them as a substitute. His most recent start was in the shock League Cup defeat at home to Championship strugglers Morton at the end of September.

But Rogic, who celebrated his 21st birthday last month, insists he has still benefited from his time at Celtic so far and remains convinced he made the right decision to move to Glasgow in the first place.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy at Celtic, it’s a fantastic club, but I think it’s important for me at this stage in my career to be playing,” said Rogic. “It’s a fantastic squad there and it’s very difficult to break into. There’s a lot of great players.

“It’s been a good learning experience. I feel I’m a much better player than I was 12 months ago so I look back on the past 12 months as a positive.

“It’s a great set-up with amazing fans and it’s great to be a part of that. I enjoyed winning the double last year. It’s a successful club in the European Champions League, so I certainly don’t have any regrets.”

Rogic won his eighth senior cap for Australia as a substitute in their friendly win over Costa Rica in Sydney in November but was warned by new national team boss Ange Postecoglou that he would need to play regularly at club level if he hoped to keep his place in the squad for the World Cup finals where the Socceroos are in Group B alongside Chile, Netherlands and reigning champions Spain.

“It’s certainly a big factor in me coming back to Australia on loan,” added Rogic. “I don’t think there’s any Australian footballer right now that wouldn’t want to be a part of that World Cup.

“At 21, the thought of possibly being at a World Cup in Brazil is pretty special. Obviously I want to do everything I can to be part of that.”

Rogic has been cleared to make his debut for Melbourne Victory, managed by former Rangers defender Kevin Muscat, in their Australia Day showdown with Sydney FC on Sunday. It was initially believed he may have to serve a suspension, having been sent off in his final appearance for Central Coast Mariners in December 2012 before his move to Celtic.

But Football Federation Australia officials have confirmed that the three-game ban which would have been imposed has now expired. Rogic now has the chance to play in excess of 20 games for Melbourne Victory, depending on how far they progress in both the domestic A-League and the Asian Champions League.

“Everyone wants to play games and that’s my focus now,” said Rogic. “I want to help Melbourne to further success. It’s no secret I haven’t played too much competitive football lately and I don’t think there’s any substitute for that. In saying that, I feel fit and I feel good.”

While Rogic takes his temporary leave of Celtic, another midfielder is determined to play a greater part in their defence of the title and Scottish Cup in the remaining months of the season.

Israeli international Nir Biton has made just six starting appearances for Celtic since his move from FC Ashdod in August. The 22-year-old is eager to assist in the bid to complete the Premiership campaign without defeat.

“Like the manager says all the time, we have a chance to make history for the club by going unbeaten all season,” Biton told Celtic View. “That’s our thinking and where we want to go. If we play well and work hard we can get it.

“We know that the second part of the season will be tougher and we all expect difficult games because in the Scottish league it doesn’t matter who you play – the games are always tough and the teams are always chasing you. But we are all ready, we want to be successful and win the games and hopefully we can achieve that.”