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Saturday 19 October 2019

I wouldn't have picked me. I'm not playing: Hogan

Scott Hogan is feeling good to be included in the Ireland squad unexpectedly
Scott Hogan is feeling good to be included in the Ireland squad unexpectedly

By his own admission, Scott Hogan didn't expect to be in Georgia today.

Early last week, he had suggested to his other half that they might have some unexpected free time to go somewhere during the international break.

Hogan was out of the team at his loan club Stoke and feeling miserable, a condition that has become all too familiar to him over the past two years.

"I said to her, there's no way I'm in this squad, they can't pick me," admitted Hogan. "I wouldn't have picked me. I'm not playing. I'm not even in the squad at the bottom of the Championship. So why would you pick me?"

Mick McCarthy stood by the 27-year-old, citing continuity by keeping the core of the group together and pointing to Hogan's role off the bench in the draws against Denmark and Switzerland.

This was a big call when Aaron Connolly was left out of the initial squad, and his brace last Saturday raised questions about the logic of McCarthy's call.

Dispatches

Hogan's name was mentioned in dispatches.

That's why it was timely that he arrived back into the headlines for the right reasons later in the day, bagging the winner at Swansea.

There's a story behind it that Hogan is happy to tell. He's a good talker, although he has locked up some of his feelings during the decline in form that accompanied his £12m switch from Brentford to Aston Villa in January 2017.

He was seconded to Sheffield United for the tail end of Villa's promotion charge, and was never going to be a part of their Premier League journey after failing to score in their colours during last season.

Hence, a temporary switch to Stoke that was supposed to provide regular football. But last Friday, Jones was happy to leave Hogan out of his match-day squad again as he planned the Swansea journey. The player took matters into his own hands.

"He picked the team and the squad on the Friday and, obviously, if you're not involved you go and do a bit of running and no-one's ever keen on that," he explains.

"But I went and pulled one of his sports scientists who'd come over to me and I just said a few things to him. And he then went and told the manager. I think it was like quarter to one and they were leaving at one.

"Jones pulled me in and two minutes later he told to me get my stuff and get on the bus after I said a few things which I felt were honest."

The rest is history, although there's a distance to travel before it can be deemed a turning point. But he admits that his struggles at Aston Villa wore him down.

"I feel like I wasted time which I'm not happy with because Aston Villa should have been the next step for me, to get in the Premier League, go and do well there, and do whatever," continues the Mancunian.

"I think I ended up thinking about football too much. I was angry constantly for two years because it wasn't going right."

Yet the source of the misery was also the reason he arrived in Dublin on Sunday with a pep in his step.

Mick McCarthy greeted him with a 'hello goalscorer'.

"It's just nice," said Hogan, "The lads are all saying 'You got a goal at the weekend'.

"It's not like I've set the world alight in my international career so far. So it's just nice to remind people."

His road to redemption might just start here.

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