Life is looking pretty sweet for Nathaniel Atkinson: the boy from “little old Tasmania” has earned his first call up to the senior Australia team.
Natty has taken to Scottish football well since he touched down in Edinburgh back in January, and now can look forward to the prospect of linking up with Graham Arnold’s Socceroos for two critical World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia.
“My family and girlfriend were the first people I called,” he told the media ahead of the Livingston game.
“When you get that kind of news, you want to tell your family because they’ve been there for the journey with me.
“My earliest memory of watching the Socceroos was actually a World Cup game against Japan, and it turns out Japan will be the first game I’ll have a chance to be involved in.”
A recurring injury to Michael Smith has cleared the way for Nate to be thrown into the right wing-back berth for Hearts right from the off. Playing week in, week out, the Aussie defender reckons it’s helped him find top form for the JTs that bit quicker.
And with a third place spot to sew up, Nate knows it’s as good as time as ever to hit high levels at Tynecastle.
“I think in a way, yeah; being thrown in is probably the best way,” he nodded.
“You have to adapt and it’s either sink or swim. The best way to improve is by playing games. You can train as much as you want but playing as much as I have has helped me acclimatise that bit quicker.
“We don’t really need to try and keep ourselves motivated: we’re professionals and we want to win every game. No one likes to lose. You don’t want to stuff third place up because there’s a chance to get European football.
“It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and we want to keep our form up and go as far as we can in the cup as well.”