The Socceroos will welcome back Tom Rogic with “open arms” should the star playmaker demand World Cup selection with his performances for new club West Bromwich Albion.
Rogic last week joined the English Championship outfit after a five-month hiatus from football following his decision in May to leave Scottish champions Celtic.
He was due to play for the Socceroos in June’s World Cup playoffs in Qatar but was a late withdrawal from the squad for “personal reasons”.
The mysterious nature of Rogic’s withdrawal, concerns about his welfare, and his lack of football cast doubts about his World Cup participation.
There had also been suggestions that the spirit garnered by the Socceroos in their heroic playoffs campaign could be affected if a spot was found for Rogic in Australia’s World Cup squad.
However, experienced defender Trent Sainsbury said 29-year-old Rogic’s desire to represent the Socceroos should never be questioned, and wanted him part of Australia’s World Cup campaign in Qatar later this year,
“I’ve been mates with Tommy for a very long time now,” said Sainsbury, who was teammates with Rogic at the Central Coast Mariners 10 years ago.
“I know what he’s like personality wise, so I’m not going to question his motives. I know what he’s capable of. I know what his feet can do.
“He’s a special player, and he’s a special person at the same time. He’s a good friend of mine.
“He doesn’t need to explain anything to me. I know for the Socceroos he’s an important player, but the Socceroos are also important to him, so it works in harmony both ways.
“For me, it’s (taking him back with) open arms.”
Sainsbury – who plies his trade with Qatar Stars League club Al-Wakrah – said Rogic playing in the “crazy’ English Championship where matches come thick and fast would ensure he would be ready for the November 20-December 18 World Cup.
“For him it’s going to be massive to get that fitness and get that rhythm going for World Cup time,” he said.
While Rogic isn’t a part of the Socceroos squad for the two-game series against New Zealand starting on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium, 30-year-old Sainsbury is as he attempts to win back his starting spot in Australia’s full-strength starting team.
Hampered by a knee injury, he watched from the bench as centre-backs Kye Rowles and Bailey Wright starred for the Socceroos in June’s playoffs against the United Arab Emirates and Peru.
With 24-year-old Rowles currently injured, Sainsbury – who has been capped 60 times for Australia – is certain to start in at least one of the two matches against the All Whites, who host the Socceroos in the second game of the series next Sunday in Auckland.
“That’s the great thing about the national team – you’re never guaranteed your spot,:” he said. “There were a few years there where I felt quite cushy, I guess. I was too comfortable. It felt like that spot was mine and no-one could take it away from me.
“But then it always happens with the next generation coming through. Kye did an amazing role … and that’s what you want. That’s what keeps you young. That’s what keeps you motivated.”