Scott Hogan admitted words of admiration from Mick McCarthy were playing on his mind in the aftermath of the Republic of Ireland’s win over Gibraltar as he pondered his club future.
Hogan made his Irish debut in Turkey last year and was handed his first competitive start last night against Gibraltar but failed to find the net.
The Aston Villa man can be prolific in front of goal but found himself out on loan in the latter part of the season, albeit as part of the Sheffield Untied squad that won promotion.
The 27-year-old was annoyed he didn’t get on the scoresheet last night but it was a conversation with the Ireland boss that was weighing heavier.
He told RTÉ Sport: "It has been a tough season for me. I know the boss trusts me. He said I didn’t play enough for the last camp which I understand. He asked me to do a job tonight and I’m just disappointed I didn’t score. I think I did everything but score. But it is what it is. We got the win and that’s all that matters.
"That’s the first time I’ve started with these lads. I’ve been training with them. They know what I’m about. Only time will help improving on timing and the connections.
"I know the boss likes me. He has been really impressed with me. I’ve not played a lot of games. I think that was my first game in about six weeks since the end of the season. I only played seven or eight games which I really don’t like. I’ve got to get going. I’ve got to think about my future really. I’ve got to play.
"The manager pulled me over at the end for a couple of minutes and said 'I love everything about you but you have to go and play games'. It’s up to me now to knuckle down and play games, wherever it may be."
Villa won promotion to the Premier League as well and have already made some big decisions with the likes of Glenn Whelan released and Ross McCormack also moving on.
It remains to be seen if Dean Smith – Hogan’s former boss – persists with the Salford-born striker.
Hogan is keen for a quick solution, whichever way it turns out.
He added: "I have got a good relationship with the manager [at Aston Villa]. He has had me before and he knows what I’m about. I’ve got to go in and get my head down and try to break into that team.
"If I can’t do that then I have to hold my hands up and look elsewhere. It’s up to the manager and the people above him.
"It’s a big club who are probably going to have a real go next year and spend a bit of money so whatever will be will be. The important thing is I get maybe 40 games under my belt because I’m confident if I get 40 games, I’ll get 25 goals.
"I just want a run of games. The only time I had a run of games at Villa I did get the goals. I can’t look in the past now. I have to look forward. I’m 27 now and I’m coming into the peak . It’s all about playing games and the manager pulled me aside and said you just have to play.
"He said ‘just play more games and it’ll come’. I’m going to go away now and go home to my wife to be who is pregnant. I’m going to have a good summer, not think about football for two weeks because I don’t need to or want to. It’s all about playing games."
Ireland host Switzerland in their next Euro 2020 qualifier in Dublin in September and Hogan is aiming to have his club future sorted and be in the type of form that ensures he is in McCarthy’s plans to start.
Hogan stated: "It’s a big four games. I think 10 points from the next four would see us through and that’s all that matters.
"That’s my next job [to be in the position to start again]. The first step is to be in the starting XI for Ireland [again] and then the next is score a goal.
"I’m confident I’ll do that and the boys will see us over the line and we can all have a great party in 2020."