From Glebe Park to the World Cup, it’s been quite the footballing journey for Harry Souttar.
The 24-year-old Stoke City defender played for Brechin City Under 10s back in the 2004-05 season.
On Saturday night, he will line-up for Australia in front of thousands of fans – not to mention a television audience of millions – as the Socceroos battle Argentina for a spot in the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
And specifically, Souttar is likely to be the man tasked with wrecking Lionel Messi’s World Cup fairytale – a David v Goliath battle for the ages.
Souttar grew up in Luthermuir, near Brechin, but is eligible to represent the Aussies because his mother was born in Port Hedland in Western Australia. His older brother John plays for Rangers and Scotland.
They both grew up supporting Brechin, where their father Jack played in the 1970s. And their connection to the cathedral city in Angus, with a population of just over 7,000, remains strong.
Harry’s World Cup journey has captured the public’s imagination and many Brechiners will be watching on proudly this weekend as one of their own again enters the international limelight.
Coffee shop Maison Dieu, which is part-owned by his brother John, even has a banner outside from the Brechin Community Trust in support of Harry.
Back at Glebe Park, the club has been showing support for one of their former players through a series of supportive messages on social media.
Harry even took time out from his preparations for Qatar by addressing the club’s recent sportsman’s dinner via video link.
Community club manager Clark Renilson told STV News: The club and the community of Brechin are overwhelmed by the support for Harry from not only our own fanbase but from supporters across the globe.
“Harry is not only a season-ticket holder at Glebe Park along with his brother John but is a true Brechin City fan and is a regular attendee at Glebe Park when football allows.
“The club have followed his career closely from his time at Brechin City youths as a young boy to thereafter moving onto Dundee United and now Stoke City.”
Harry formed part of a successful Brechin youth team along with his brother John, Ryan Gauld – who plays for Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada – and current Brechin City goalkeeper Dean Easton.
Renilson added: “It is such a fantastic achievement for these boys to play together for the local community club and then continue their football journey which has resulted in Harry representing Australia at the World Cup.
“We could not be prouder of his achievements and, to cap it all, his performances have been fantastic.
“Along with John and Ryan he is a role model to our local children and it just shows what can be achieved with hard work and commitment. Well done Harry from everyone at the club and the community.”
Australia advanced to the World Cup last-16 for just the second time in the nation’s history earlier this week, defeating Denmark to finish runners-up in Group D.
Souttar, who was attached to Celtic for a period before signing for Dundee United in 2013, has won many of the plaudits with his commanding displays at centre-back.
He moved to Stoke in 2016 and has also had spells on loan with Ross County and Fleetwood Town.
His next assignment, however, is his hardest one yet – stopping Messi from fulfilling his lifelong dream of emulating Diego Maradona by leading Argentina to World Cup glory.
The Barcelona and PSG legend will be taking part in his 1000th career game.
“It’s going to be another great occasion, I just can’t wait for it,” Souttar told the Australian national team’s website.
“I’m just so proud, so pleased for the players, for the staff, for the fans, the families, there’s just that sense of emotion, just pride. I could say all the words in the world, it’s just unbelievable.”
Saturday’s knockout match will take place at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, popularly known as the Al-Rayyan Stadium, which is the same venue that Australia defeated Peru on penalties in June to qualify for the World Cup.
“Obviously the lads have got some good memories from that stadium so hopefully we can take that with us,” Souttar said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, the objective’s going to stay the same, we’re going to try and win the game.
“We’ve got to do our recovery protocols and everything properly now because there’s a day less to recover but we’ll get all that done, we’ll get all the lads fit and ready to go again.”