They’re the McAussies.
A pair of Scots with Australian parents who are forming the cornerstone of the Socceroos’ quest for a fifth straight World Cup appearance.
Harry Souttar and Martin Boyle would have felt about as dinky-di as the Glasgow wind chill up until three years ago.
But having been shrewdly brought into the Socceroos set-up by Graham Arnold — due to an Australian-born mother in Souttar’s case, and a father in Boyle’s — they have become arguably two of the best outfield players in a national team squad that is currently on a world record 11-game winning streak.
They are undoubtedly the nation’s two best overseas performers so far this season.
Souttar is the beanpole six-foot-six centre back who is providing the ideal foil for Trent Sainsbury in the heart of the Aussie defence and has enjoyed a red-hot 18 months for Stoke in the English Championship.
That form has the 22-year-old seemingly on a fast track to the Premier League.
Whether that happens via promotion for the fourth-placed Potters themselves, or, as UK reports suggest, a bid from an established club, Souttar seems destined to fill the Aussie void on club football’s biggest stage.
At the other end of the park, Boyle is quite possibly Australia’s most dangerous attacking option.
The Hibernian attacker is currently the joint leading goalscorer in the Scottish Premier League, with six goals for the season to date. He was named league player of the month back in August.
Capable of playing on either wing or as the central striker, the pacey 28-year-old is averaging a goal in every second game for the Socceroos. Netting three times in the last four clashes, he has emerged as the Australian most likely to deliver a crunch strike against a big nation or in a tough environment.
Like tonight’s showdown with old foe Japan in Saitama.
A win away from home against a Blue Samurai side that is reeling right now will give Australia a foot — and a couple of toes — on that plane to Qatar.
Even a draw, which would maintain the six-point buffer over Japan in the automatic qualifying spots with home games to come, would have to be viewed as a valuable result.
Early days they may be, but after having to battle through the playoffs to make it to Russia in 2018 and then being eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup six months later, it’s not a position many would have predicted this current Socceroos squad to be in.
They may know more about haggis than Harold Holt, but the impact of the outside-the-square discoveries of Boyle and Souttar cannot be downplayed as one of the key factors for that improvement.
A rapid difference-maker in attack. A towering, composed presence in defence.
Considering neither player had much to do with Australia outside of their parental lineage, their recruitment has proven to be hugely astute by the Socceroos hierarchy.
It’s a far cry from the likes of Tony Dorigo, Craig Johnston and Josip Šimunić rejecting the chance to wear the Australian coat of arms in favour of other nations.
And it’s the basis of a bond for our Scottish Socceroos.
“We’ve actually got the same agent as well, so I’ve known Boyley a long time,” Souttar said from the Socceroos camp in Japan.
“He’s from Aberdeen, where I’m from as well. We get on really well and there is that little connection.
“He’s a bit of a character and a livewire, and I’m a little quieter and calmer than he is. But most of the squad is calmer than he is off the park. We have got that connection, you can say.”
There is little doubt that had they chosen to play for the nation of their birth, both Souttar and Boyle would have been part of the current Scottish squad.
Scotland has just competed in the European Championships, and is on track for the 2022 World Cup as well.
Three years ago, when Souttar and Boyle made the decision to commit to Australia, Scotland looked far less likely than the Socceroos to be playing on the World Cup stage.
The duo haven’t shown a morsel of remorse over their call, and admit that they are building on their passion for Australia with every camp they take part in.
And they’re demonstrating a growing confidence when it comes to bellowing out their new anthem.
That was noted by the eagle-eyed Aussie football fraternity in Souttar’s case, when he suited up in green and gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
“When I left the Olympics, I almost felt like it was my home because I’d been around the staff and the players for two and a half months. It felt like that was my life and home,” he said.
“I love coming away. We’re not in Australia at the moment and hopefully that can change soon and we can play in front of the fans again.”
That’s likely to happen next month in Sydney for the critical home qualifier against fellow group leader Saudi Arabia — providing a travel bubble can be secured.
And there will be few players more vital than Souttar and Boyle in pursuit of three more precious World Cup qualification points.
Follow Australia’s World Cup qualification match against Japan in our live blog from 9:14pm AEDT.