Oliver Bozanic hopes Hearts switch can lead to Socceroos recall

Oliver Bozanic was keen to return to Europe. Picture: SNS.
Oliver Bozanic was keen to return to Europe. Picture: SNS.
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Four years ago Oliver Bozanic was competing with Spain and Netherlands on the global stage, a member of the Australia squad, living out his boyhood dreams at the Brazil World Cup.

The fact the new Hearts midfielder is cheering on his former colleagues from the comfort of his couch this time around has fuelled his desire and he is hoping that Scottish football will give him the platform he needs to make it back on to the international stage.

In only half a season, countryman Jamie Maclaren made enough of an impact at Hibernian to force his way into Bert van Marwijk’s Australia squad, while Tom Rogic has grown in stature in his time at Celtic and is a regular starter for the Socceroos.

Bozanic is familiar with the progress of the Parkhead player, having played alongside him at Central Coast Mariners, and always expected him to prosper, but he says that Scottish football has aided that development and is hoping the same can eventually be said for him.

“You could see he would have a great career, even back then,” the former Reading player said of Rogic. “As soon as he had his breakthrough season with Central Coast, there was immediately a lot of interest from a lot of big clubs in Europe and it was never going to be long before someone picked him up.

“At Central Coast, he started very well and came on to the scene with the national team. It’s great to see him doing so well in the league and with the national team. I hope I can have the same sort of impact at Hearts, that’s my objective – to have a big effect here. I want to make that happen.”

Rogic has proved that if an Aussie can deliver in the Scottish Premiership, it won’t go unnoticed Down Under.

“He has shown his worth in Scotland and it’s big news back home,” added Bozanic. “Celtic’s games are televised and, especially when he plays or scores, it is talked up a lot.”

One of three Australians signed by Hearts manager Craig Levein during the close season, along with Ryan Edwards and Ben Garuccio, the 29-year-old Bozanic is only a couple of days into pre-season training but is already well appraised of the expectations at a club like Hearts thanks to fellow Socceroo Ryan McGowan. A Tynecastle favourite and a key contributor in the 5-1 Scottish Cup final thrashing of Hibs, the former full-back’s heart-on-sleeve attitude ensured Bozanic was au fait with the Gorgie side.

“Ryan is a top guy. He has done very well for the national team and throughout his career,” said the midfielder. “I didn’t actually speak to him before signing. But in the past, he’s talked about the club, how great it is and about the fans. That made it easier to make my decision. There were little mentions here and there. He sowed the seeds! I knew it was a great opportunity for myself, it’s a massive club, a massive fan base, very passionate people. It was always in the back of my mind to come back to Europe. When this came up, it was something I wanted to take on immediately.”

A sixth-place finish in the league last term for Hearts was never likely to be deemed acceptable and he says that he and his new team-mates are looking to address that in the new season, targeting a European qualifying place and a decent punt at some silverware. In raising the standards at club level, the hope is that more international caps will follow.

“It was an amazing experience in Brazil,” he said. “To play against the Netherlands and Spain was a massive achievement in terms of my national team career. But I am still hungry for more success and if this brings about more opportunities with the national team I would love to take them. It’s a little bittersweet watching them this year because I would obviously love to be there.

“If you’re playing in Europe it’s a massive advantage for the national team. I’ve still got one eye on that as well. But right now my main objective is to come here and perform and play well and help the club.”