The 198cm force aiming to strengthen Australia’s goal threat

When 198cm defender Harry Souttar returned to Fleetwood Town for the 2019/20 season, there was one particular trait he wanted to add to his game: goals.

In 11 League One games for Fleetwood last season, the Australia U-23s centre-back scored one goal and provided one assist.

So, when the 20-year-old was given the opportunity to re-join Joey Barton’s side on loan from Stoke City for the upcoming season, Souttar explained to his manager what he wanted to achieve.

“It was the one thing I spoke to the gaffer about here - adding more goals to my game,” Souttar told socceroos.com.au.

He added: “He (Barton) gave me the opportunity to play regular football in the English leagues and I’ve not had that before, so that’s why I wanted to come back. I have a little bit of unfinished business with the club”.

It seems the centre-back’s decision to move has paid off almost instantly.

Souttar
Souttar scores for Fleetwood Town

Within 13 minutes of the new League One season kicking off, Souttar had doubled his goal involvements with the club.

First, Souttar towered over his defender at a corner to head home Fleetwood’s opening goal of the campaign in the fourth minute.

Then, less than 10 minutes later, he played a long ball over top of Peterborough’s defence for teammate Josh Morris to make it 2-0 with a sublime first-time finish.

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Highlights: Fleetwood Town v Peterborough

Souttar said he was “delighted” to score his first goal on the first day of the season, but after the match, manager Barton explained why the Australian’s header came as no surprise.  

“We’ve worked on getting some new moving patterns for him (Souttar) from corners, because he’s so good in the air,” Barton told the Stoke Sentinel.

Souttar added, telling socceroos.com.au: “We worked a lot on set pieces at the club and obviously we go through different ones and pick out which ones work and which ones don’t seem to work.”

“But, that little bit of physicality at set-pieces, obviously it helps me being the height I am.

“There’s a lot of big boys in the League One. Most of the centre halves who mark me are six foot three or four, so it’s kind of a battle every set piece.”

While Souttar is focused on continuing to improve and play as much regular first-team football as possible, he’s also determined to continue his involvement with the Australian national teams.

The Scottish-born centre-back, whose mother is Australian, made his debut for the Australian U-23s in March at the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers in Cambodia, before earning his first Caltex Socceroos call-up for the squad that faced Korea Republic in June.

Souttar did not make his senior national team debut, but the experience was a positive one that made him even more hungry to earn his first cap.

“It [the two-week training camp] was really, really good,” he said.

“Meeting all the boys for the first time - they could not have been better to me.

“To get that taste of international football, at the highest level, it was something that I really enjoyed”.

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To take the next step in his international career, Souttar knows that playing more first-team football is essential, and that has been relayed to him by Caltex Socceroos assistant coach, Rene Meulensteen.

“Playing at Fleetwood every week will help him to improve,” Meulensteen told socceroos.com.au.

“It’s great he has committed to Australia and that we expect him to become an important player for the Olyroos and Socceroos.”

Souttar
Souttar (R) in Caltex Socceroos camp in Korea Republic in June

An opportunity to see Souttar in the green and gold could come sooner rather than later with the Australian U-23s set to face New Zealand in two friendly matches in Wollongong and Campbelltown in September.

The games serve as preparation for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand in January, where the top three teams will earn the right to join host nation Japan as Asia’s representatives at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

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Souttar U-23s Australia
Souttar in action for the Australia U-23s in March

While the defender’s potential involvement in the September matches hinge on selection as well as Fleetwood allowing him to join the squad, as there’s no international breaks in League One, Souttar also has one eye on helping Australia qualify for Tokyo 2020 in January.

“It would mean everything to go to the Olympics,” said Souttar.

“I think that was one of my boyhood dreams to score at the Olympics, but I never quite thought I would be able to do it [go to the Olympics] for football.

“So, to have the opportunity to be four or five games away from doing that would mean a great deal to me personally, and I think the squad as well.

“That’s something in January that we’re going to try our hardest to go and do.”

And if Souttar’s goalscoring form at Fleetwood continues then he could be another threat for Australia as they work towards being at the Olympics in 2020.

International Friendlies – Australia U-23 v New Zealand U-23

Date: Friday, 6 September 2019
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEST
Buy tickets now through Ticketmaster.

Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Campbelltown
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEST
Buy tickets now through Ticketmaster.