A serious knee injury put a halt on Harry Souttar’s rapid club and country rise but the Socceroos defender has one major goal as he continues his recovery from an ACL injury.
Souttar was ruled out of the rest of Australia’s FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Saudi Arabia in November.
While the Stoke City defender is now ten weeks post-operation and back working in the gym as he targets a pre-season return with the Potters, he has another goal in the back of his mind.
“I have had an unbelievable two years with Australia,” Souttar told The Guardian.
It is such a great group, one big family. I am always so excited to see everyone.
“When you are injured it’s good to have goals to keep you motivated.
“A major one for me is to be playing in a World Cup, it would be incredible.”
Although there is still a long way to go in his recovery, Souttar is progressing well after being operated on and taken care of by the same surgeon who repaired Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk's ACL last year.
The 23-year-old has stayed positive during his rehabilitation and drawn on the support from his brother John Souttar, who has suffered multiple long-term injuries.
“My attitude was: it has happened. I can’t go back and change it. Yes, I was disappointed but I had to crack on,” he explained.
I can look very close to home; John has had three achilles injuries and has been out for a number of years. This is nothing compared to what he has been through.
“He has given me so many tips, some books to read and things to write down that helped him through injuries. I know if I have problems I always have him to speak to.”
Souttar’s injury was a bitter blow after a breakout couple of seasons had cemented him a spot in the heart of the Socceroos and Stoke’s defences.
Prior to making his Socceroos debut, Souttar had never set foot in Australia but with six goals in his first ten senior appearances, he quickly became a hero in Green and Gold.
His importance for his club can also not be overstated. Souttar joined Stoke from Dundee United at 17 and following various loan spells, he had established himself as a first-team regular for Stoke.
Souttar regularly captained the side, started 46 out of 51 games on offer in 2021, and cemented a reputation as one of the Championship’s best stoppers.
But despite his career going from strength to strength before his injury, Souttar’s time at Stoke started in very different fashion.
“Up until last season, I never really felt like a Stoke player,” he said.
“I was signed by the club but I had been on loan and in my head, the first team was so far away, especially when I was younger and they were in the Premier League.
“For the manager to say I could stay and get a chance was all I needed. Then he kept faith in me.
I started to think: ‘You know what, I do belong here and I’m not just being picked to fill a jersey.’
“The manager told me I could influence games and start play from the back, that I was important. I could tell myself had a lot of responsibility.”