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Winger Silvera eyes Socceroos chance against Mexico

MELBOURNE - After injuries, COVID-19 challenges and an ill-fated stint in Portuguese football, Australian Sammy Silvera might have been forgiven for never wanting to leave home shores again.

Instead, the 22-year-old winger has returned to Europe a bit older, wiser and more confident after winning his country's A-League championship with the Central Coast Mariners.

Middlesborough, languishing at the bottom of England's second division, may not be every footballer's dream destination but it has opened the door for an international debut for Silvera, who was called up to Graham Arnold's Australia squad.

Silvera will hope to run out for the Socceroos when they face Gold Cup winners Mexico in a friendly in Dallas, Texas on Saturday as Arnold shapes his squad for coming World Cup qualifiers.

Silvera has started in four of Middlesbrough's five matches in the English Championship, counting Socceroos midfielder Riley McGree and goalkeeper Tom Glover, another Australian, as team mates at the Yorkshire side.

"At the Mariners I found my love for football again and I really enjoyed being there," Silvera told reporters on Thursday.

"Coming to Middlesbrough was that same feeling where it felt like a family, a really positive environment ever since I’ve set foot in the door.

"Knowing, Riley and Tom were going to be at the club was a massive help for sure.

"From day one, Riley knows the club inside and out pretty much so it just helps having that, it makes that transition a lot easier.

"With Tom we’re both new so we just bounce off each other, we’re learning together."

Silvera left Australia at 19 to head to Paços de Ferreira in Portugal's top flight but injuries struck quickly and he ended up loaned out to lower division teams before heading home.

After a year on loan at A-League side Newcastle Jets, Silvera returned to the Central Coast Mariners where he started his professional career as a teenager.

The Nick Montgomery-coached Mariners, who have the cheapest roster in the A-League, claimed their second championship with a 6-1 humiliation of Melbourne City in the 'Grand Final' match in June.

Silvera credited Montgomery and his staff for putting his career back on track after the confidence-sapping experience in Portugal.

"The way they encouraged me on the pitch to just play and do what I love basically," he said.

"He brought a young team together that got the biggest crowd to ever come to the stadium. It was fantastic to be a part of." REUTERS