Fringe Socceroo Jamie Maclaren is hopeful a “clean slate” in comfortable surrounds can help put him back in contention for a ticket to Russia after a nightmare stint in Germany.
The former A-League goal machine has joined Scottish outfit Hibernian on loan for the rest of the season, having struggled for playing minutes in Germany in a battling Darmstadt side that currently sits inside the second-division drop zone.
It is a move with the World Cup firmly in mind.
Maclaren was handed his international debut by Ange Postecoglou but hasn’t played for the Socceroos since the 2-1 qualifying win over Thailand last September.
He now has less than six months in Scotland to prove to Postecoglou’s successor — whoever that ends up being — that he deserves to be in Australia’s 23-man squad.
“I needed to do it, for what’s ahead in terms of the Socceroos but also myself,” Maclaren told AAP.
“I know I can play and score goals and to be sitting on the bench and not being able to contribute to a team that was losing was pretty hard to take.”
Maclaren said he was told by then-Darmstadt coach Torsten Frings when he first signed from Brisbane Roar that he would get an opportunity to play in a two-striker system.
But when the season began, Darmstadt only played one man up front and Maclaren found himself used sparingly off the bench and out of position as an attacking utility.
Maclaren made his frustrations clear but the defeats quickly piled up and Frings was sacked in December and replaced by Dirk Schuster.
An A-League club showed strong interest in a loan deal but Schuster was initially reluctant to let the 24-year-old leave until Hibernian came into the picture.
Based in Edinburgh, where Maclaren’s father Don is originally from, the club is coached by Neil Lennon, who previously led Tom Rogic at Celtic.
“They’re a team that likes to play out from the back, keep the ball on the deck and it shows why they’re sitting in the top four in the league and pushing for a Europa spot,” Maclaren said.
“I know the city quite well. Neil said to me they need goals and I feel like I can contribute to that.
“I’ve got to score goals at club level and for the new [Socceroos] manager that comes in, hopefully that will be enough.”
Maclaren still has two more years to run on his Darmstadt contract.