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Luongo: No Regrets on Socceroos Retirement
Wednesday, 27th Mar 2024 19:56

Midfielder Massimo Luongo insists he has no regrets about his decision to retire from international football with Australia, leaving him to concentrate totally on club commitments as Town resume their Championship promotion challenge with a Good Friday visit to Blackburn Rovers.

Teammate Cameron Burgess, a relative newcomer to life with the Aussie national side, made it senior cap number eight when he was in the side that defeated Lebanon in both home and away World Cup qualifiers recently - securing a spot in the third round of qualifying and also the 2027 Asian Cup finals - and Luongo was asked if it felt strange not to be accompanying him.

“No, it wasn’t strange. I enjoyed it,” he admitted. “I had become quite used to it when I wasn’t being called up before I was recalled to the squad.

“It was good to have the rest and have time with my family instead of travelling for 24 hours.

“But we’re a club where we all work hard during the international break. We had a few days off to recharge our batteries and stuff like that, but you can lose that hard work when you go off to represent your country. All you are interested in are the games and keeping everyone fit.

“It’s not the same when you don’t have a game but you can focus on maybe getting a little bit fitter or some specific aspect of your game. You can really dial into your own personal game and I think a lot of us here do that.

“For sure, going forward, maybe not the weekend but in seven games’ time, say, we will feel the benefits of it.

“We had the same situation last year. I know the games coming up are really tough and it just builds up the atmosphere.

“When you have had a few days off you can really hone in on the next five games, especially, and while you take them all one game at a time you also know that each one has its own challenges and each game is as big in its own way.

“So, it’s exciting. I’m really excited and I think most of the boys are excited. A little bit nervous, because you never know what’s going to happen, but it’s important to have that as well.

“But I always keep an eye on what the Australian team are doing. Burge did well and they’ve kept four clean sheets as well, so they’re almost there. When he gets back here he can concentrate – and worry – about us again.”

It’s the business end of the season right now as the Blues do battle alongside Leeds, Leicester and, to a lesser extent Southampton, for the two automatic promotion places and a return ticket to the Premier League after a 22-year gap.

Luongo, who made his first Ipswich debut on loan from first club Tottenham during the early part of the 2012/13 campaign, returned on a full-time basis last year after being released by Middlesbrough, playing a major role in the run-in that saw Town clinch promotion from League One.

He reflected: “Yes, it has been a good year to be fair. Before that it had been a long time since I had really enjoyed my football. We have a good atmosphere, good sessions and we work really hard, and it is everything that I like to be involved in. So, yes, a good year – promotion obviously – and I just want to keep enjoying it.”

Luongo was asked if he had dared to dream the move would go as well as it has done, manager Kieron McKenna marking his first full season as a manager by leading the side back to the Championship and now has them in the thick of the race to steep up to the top flight.

“At the time, no,” said Luongo, who won 45 senior caps. “Back then my mentality was all short-term. I just wanted to rediscover my love for the game and to carry on playing football.

“I couldn’t even get into the team at the start, so it was just about training and playing well to try and get into the team. I would never have thought how far this club could go so quickly. I didn’t think it was realistic but obviously we have done really well.”

It seems to be good news all the way at Portman Road these days, last week’s announcement that the club have secured a £105 million investment from American private equity firm Bright Path Sports Partners that chief executive Mark Ashton explained some would initially be allocated to training ground improvements and the bid to upgrade academy status to category one.

But although he signed a one-year contract extension in January, which runs to the end of the 2024/25 season with the club having an option for a further season, Luongo knows only too well that football is unpredictable and there is no guarantee he will still be at the club as it continues to grow.

He added: “I was really happy to do that, just to get it done to coincide with my retirement from international football with Australia, so I could just focus on being here.

“It’s never nice knowing you’ve got three or four months left of the season but beyond that you don’t know where you’re going to be. It was just nice to get it done and not worry about anything else.

“But whether I’ll be here or not as they carry on building, it’s nice to be part of what is happening right now. We had a small meeting with Mark Ashton, who explained everything and said he wanted us to be the first to know what was happening before it all came out and went public.

“It’s definitely exciting news and I’d love to be a part of it if I can. A lot of us can take pride from the fact that we’re probably the foundation of it.

“We started off the transition or rebuild – the new era – so that’s something we can all claim, that we’ve been a big part of it going forward. I’ve been at clubs that haven’t had this type of progress and, for sure, it’s a great place to be.”

Photo: TWTD

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Perublue added 20:19 - Mar 27
I wonder if he’d consider coming out of retirement briefly if the Aussies make it to the Olympics and come calling for him as one off their 3 allowed overage players ?

BotesdaleBlue added 20:21 - Mar 27
Excellent reflections and perspectives from Massimo - as usual.

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