THIRTEEN days, 34,000km, two World Cup qualifiers, an Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers, and a Champions League tie away to Barcelona. No wonder Tom Rogic’s passport is so full he needs a new one.
“Long may it continue” is Rogic’s summation of a schedule that shows how far and how quickly he has surged towards the peak of the game. Sitting in a Perth hotel, preparing for the first of those qualifiers against Iraq on Thursday night, the Socceroos playmaker is anxious to enjoy every aspect of what his life has become.
A brilliant freekick for Celtic on Saturday showed how important he is to the club’s new manager, Brendan Rodgers. Man of the match, he travelled straight from Parkhead to the airport to fly around the world on international duty.
It’s exhausting but exhilarating, all the more so for a player whose physique prevented him from playing at the 2014 World Cup, but who now can look forward to Champions League ties against Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach, as well as a leading role in World Cup qualification.
“I’m feeling good – we have a lot of games, we’ve had some unique games at our club,” Rogic said. “We’ve gone to Kazakhstan, we’ve gone to Israel. Now we’ve travelled here, then off to the UAE. It doesn’t really stop. The next international (window) there’s lots of travel as well, that’s just part of it. You’ve just got to enjoy it.
“I’ve actually got to get a new passport, I’ve run out of room. I love what I do and I think everyone here does, but nothing comes easy. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of time away, a lot of time travelling on planes and hotels.
“It’s just part of it. It’s just part of the sacrifices we all make to do what we can, do what we love. It’s not forever. We just need to embrace it and enjoy it.”
For a boy from Canberra whose first professional contract came only four-and-a-half years ago, the goldfish-bowl existence of playing at a club like Celtic – playing such a large part in the life of its supporters – could be oppressive. Not so, he insists, having made the decision to re-sign despite reported interest elsewhere.
“The club’s massive, I didn’t realise how big it is until I was there,” he said. “When you’re playing your home matches in front of 60,000 fans and the atmosphere that comes with it, it’s not something I take for granted or take lightly.
“The environment you’re in and the expectations that come with playing for a club that size and that amount of fans, you get used to it in a way. You learn how to deal and cope better with expectations.
“You get recognised and stuff like that, football is a major part of that city. That’s not anything I can change so I just get on with my life. I’m happy living there. The games, they don’t really stop. We have to keep winning. That sort of mentality gets drilled into you. I’ve been there for long enough. I know what it means.
“(Brendan Rodgers) was a factor (in Rogic re-signing), he’s the manager. I’m happy at the club, I’m settled there. I have been there for some time now. I always wanted to stay and I’m just grateful that my future is sorted and I can focus on playing for the club.
“We’ve got an Old Firm match when we get back on the Saturday and then Barcelona away on the Tuesday. It’s all a bit crazy at the moment but I’m certainly loving it and long may it continue.”
© 2016 The Daily Telegraph | This article was written by Tom Smithies and first appeared on the Daily Telegraph website on 31 August 2016.