Matt Scrafton column: Blackpool midfielder cannot be blamed for clocking up the air miles
From Blackpool’s perspective, seeing Kenny Dougall jet around the world for three minutes of action is far from ideal.
Bear in mind though, it’s three minutes more than the midfielder got during the past three international breaks, when Dougall was left out of the Australian side for five games on the spin.
That’s just international football though, isn’t it?
Dougall, as good as he’s been for the Seasiders, can’t simply expect to waltz into the Socceroos’ starting line-up and nor would he, I’m sure.
He’s got plenty of competition, for a start. The man he replaced during last week’s goalless draw against Saudi Arabia, Ajdin Hrustic, plays his football in the Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt.
Jackson Irvine and Jackson Jeggo are the two players currently ahead of him in the pecking order in the central midfield spots.
Irvine plays for German side St Pauli while Jeggo plays for the Greek team Aris Salonika, who have regularly played European football in recent years.
Dougall, meanwhile, has only been capped by his country on four occasions, so he’s still got to establish himself within Graham Arnold’s set-up.
It’s easy for us, as armchair experts, to sit and complain about Dougall’s lack of game time and question if there’s even any point in ‘King Kenny’, as he’s now affectionately known, making the trip to far-flung places around the globe like Sydney, Doha and the United Arab Emirates, as he has done in recent months.
That misses the point spectacularly. From a personal point of view, what an experience it must be for Dougall to visit these places.
Of course, he isn’t a tourist and he’s there to try and play but you might as well enjoy it and take it all in while you’re there.
More significantly, if Dougall wants to force his way into the Australian squad for next year’s World Cup, should they qualify, then he can’t exactly rule himself out of the qualifiers and simply walk into the squad for the tournament, can he?
Dougall is right on the cusp of the first team, so imagine if he backed out now and opted against travelling? It just wouldn’t happen and nor should it.
You’ve got to do the hard yards, and if that means continuing to prove himself in the Championship and taking his chance with his country when it comes, then that’s just how it goes.
If that’s to the potential detriment of Neil Critchley’s side – even though that’s up for debate – then again, so be it.
If he misses a game or two or sits on the bench with jet lag, then that’s exactly why Blackpool have put together such a strong squad.
Blackpool are at a level now where more and more of their players are beginning to garner interest from their national sides. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Daniel Gretarsson played the full 90 minutes during both of Iceland’s final qualifiers during the international break, while Kevin Stewart, Tyreece John-Jules and Shayne Lavery continue to be in and around the squads for their respective nations.
Going back to Dougall briefly, three minutes might not sound much but consider the circumstances.
This was Australia’s first game back on home turf in 763 days, as they had to play their ‘home’ games on neutral ground earlier on during the pandemic due to Covid restrictions. This was a big moment for all involved.
It was also Dougall’s first time wearing the green and gold jersey on home turf, so don’t underestimate what this will have meant for the Aussie.
Imagine coming on as an 87th minute substitute to represent England at Wembley. Even if it was the only cameo you’d make for the Three Lions, it’s a moment you’d cherish for the rest of your life.
Chances are, Dougall will probably only be fit enough to make the bench at Swansea City tomorrow.
I don’t know the specific details of Dougall’s travel plans this week but, last month, the midfielder didn’t return to the UK until the Thursday before the Saturday game and only trained on the Friday. Hardly ideal preparation for a league encounter.
Stewart is back in the mix though and could partner Ryan Wintle if he’s proven his match fitness. Otherwise Callum Connolly or Reece James could be called upon.
This weekend will be a tricky challenge for the Seasiders, facing a talented Swansea side that had won four of their last six games prior to the break.
The Swans have taken some adjusting to Russell Martin’s methods, but they’ve steadily improved over the last couple of months and are well placed in the division, sitting 12th, two points adrift of the Seasiders and three off the play-off spots.
From our experience of watching Blackpool play Martin’s MK Dons side last season, we can expect Critchley’s side to have to do plenty of defending.
Martin likes his teams to dominate the ball and can pass you to death if you aren’t careful.
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