International glory beckons for Brandon

His inclusion in the provisional Australia Under-23 squad for the upcoming AFC U-23 Championship China 2018 Qualifiers added yet another layer of gloss to what has been a memorable year for Glory’s Brandon Wilson.

By his own admission, he expected to feature mainly off the bench in the A-League last term, but after producing a strong performance in the season-opener against Central Coast, in fact went on to become something of a midfield mainstay.

Forging a formidable partnership with Rostyn Griffiths in the centre of the park, the 21-year-old eventually chalked up 22 appearances which included 14 starts.

“It was the best possible outcome I could have had other than the little injury I had towards the end,” he said.

“But if you take that out of it, you could say that it was the perfect debut season for me game-time-wise.

“I learned a hell of a lot playing alongside the likes of Griffo, Castro and the rest of the lads and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

His fine early-season form for Glory duly earned the former Burnley man a call-up to an Australia Under-23 training camp on the Central Coast in January and he remains understandably thrilled to be a part of coach Josep Gombau’s ongoing plans.

“I’m absolutely buzzing and can’t wait to get cracking again,” he said.

“It’ll be my first competitive tournament with an Australia team since I played for the Under-20s a couple of years ago, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“I thought the camp earlier in the year went really well.

“The team really gelled and I thought I showed what I was all about.

“That previous Under-20s tournament was played in Laos, so I know what to expect in terms of the heat and humidity and so on.

“And this tournament is very short and sharp rather than dragged out which is good as it means there’ll be no chance of people getting homesick or anything like that.”

Providing that he is included in the final squad of 23, he will head from the pre-tournament training camp in Sydney to Myanmar where Australia will face three games in the space of four days.

Brunei will be their first opponents, followed by Singapore and then a clash with the host nation and in order to qualify for next year’s AFC U-23 Championship, Gombau’s side need to top their group or be one of the best five second-placed teams of the ten qualifying groups.

Should everything go to plan, they will then travel to China in January of next year to participate in the finals.

There are plenty of familiar A-League faces in the squad, including Adelaide’s Bruce Kamau and Liam Rose of the Mariners, plus a sprinkling of overseas-based players such as Awer Mabil and Stefan Mauk.

And Wilson feels that the group is talented enough to both qualify and then make a major impression come finals time.

“It’s a very good squad,” he said.

“We played Sydney FC right at the end of one of the camps earlier in the year and beat them 5-1.

“Ok, they were in off-season mode and weren’t at full-strength, but they did have quite a few of their better players involved, so to beat them like that shows the kind of quality that we have.

“Graham Arnold said he thought we had a great team and coming from a man who is as respected in the A-League as he is, that was a really good compliment.”

Attending the U-23 camp in January meant that the Glory midfielder enjoyed the dubious pleasure of celebrating his 21st birthday on the Central Coast.

And should Australia qualify and then progress to the latter stages of the AFC Championship next year, he'll be blowing out 22 candles in China.

But he’s taking that prospect very much in his stride.

“That’s football,” he said.

“If it means we’ve gone deep into the tournament, I’ll take it.”