Lee Hodson has somewhat reversed the convention that performing well for your club will earn you international recognition.
For the Rangers full-back, it was an impressive display for Northern Ireland against world champions Germany this month which has seen him force his way into Mark Warburton’s starting line-up.
Hodson, 25, was widely praised for his performance when Michael O’Neill’s team competed credibly in losing 2-0 to Germany in Hanover in a World Cup qualifier two weeks ago.
The former Watford and MK Dons player was rewarded with a place in Rangers’ League Cup semi-final defeat against Celtic at Hampden last weekend, before making his first Premiership start for the Ibrox men in their home draw against St Johnstone on Wednesday night.
Although both results were a disappointment for Hodson and his team-mates, he has taken encouragement from his personal progress at Rangers, which he believes was sparked by that outing against Germany.
“Playing at international level always helps you,” said Hodson. “Going away with your country helps you both confidence and fitness wise. It definitely helped me to go in and play against Celtic.
“Physically, the German game was good for me. That German team is the best I’ve played against. One minute you are up against Mario Gotze, who is meant to be playing up top, then you’ve got Thomas Muller on your side of the pitch. They don’t have set positions and it always changes. It was a great experience for me to play against the best team in the world.
“I didn’t really know I was going to be playing against Celtic last week until the team was announced. I’d played in previous rounds of the League Cup this season, so I hoped I’d be able to play on in the semi.
“I thought I did OK defensively. I could have been better on the ball, personally, but that’s me nitpicking. I always watch back clips to see what I could do better and improve on.”
Since joining Rangers in the summer, the challenge for Hodson – who can play right-back and left-back – has been to try to dislodge established men James Tavernier and Lee Wallace. But Warburton’s strategy of playing Tavernier in a more advanced midfield role last Sunday to accommodate Hodson has boosted his prospects of more game time.
“It was always going to be tough for me to come here and get my spot but I was willing to work hard,” he added. “I knew I would improve as a player here with the quality in the squad and the intensity. I knew that when I got my chance I had to take it.
“James is a good full-back who can get forward and defend and has got a great delivery which he has shown already this season.
“He can show his quality at full-back but if he’s higher up the pitch it could work. I thought we did okay down the right-hand side against Celtic and, the more we play, then you can only get stronger. We’ll have to see if that happens.”
Hodson hopes to help Rangers resume winning ways this afternoon when they welcome Kilmarnock to Ibrox.
Having spent the second half of last season on loan at Killie, playing a part in their Premiership survival through the play-offs, Hodson is aware of the threat posed by Lee Clark’s side.
“Lee [pictured] came in last season when I was there,” said Hodson. “You could see his philosophies having an effect towards the end of last season. It was paying off.
“He is a good manager and did a lot for me when I was there. Lee is a good coach and I learned a lot from him.
“I really enjoyed my time at Kilmarnock. It helped me get my place in Northern Ireland’s squad for the Euros in France, so I’m very thankful for what Kilmarnock did for me.”