A former Blackburn Rovers defender could be Malta’s secret weapon against Northern Ireland tonight.
Jacob Borg, who spent time at Ewood Park’s youth set-up with Manchester United’s Phil Jones, has earned his first call-up to the international side after his time in Australia’s A-league came to an untimely end.
“I was playing for Gold Coast United, but there were huge problems there which led to the club having to close entirely. It emerged there had been a string of contract breaches, maybe up to six or seven, and the club’s owner, Clive Palmer, ended up really kicking out against the Federation.
“Clubs registered in that league are supposed to have one physio for every two players but we had two for the entire squad. Mistreatment of players was a big issue. They didn’t have anything by way of a professional set-up.
“It’s hard to get development opportunities in Australia. I’ve got four under-20 caps for Australia, but after that, it’s really hard to work on your skills because the training facilities are poor.”
Now the 21-year old is hopeful of making his debut against Michael O’Neill’s experimental side in tonight’s friendly at the Ta’Qali Stadium, having been included in Pietro Ghedin’s final 18-man cut.
“I’m so excited about playing against Northern Ireland that I have barely been able to sleep!” he added.
“The national side have been in camp for about four weeks now. It’s probably quite unusual to have that much time together, but all our players are based nearby.
“We play Bulgaria on March 20 and then Italy away six days later. So of course, I want to use the game against Northern Ireland to get noticed.
“Like any other player who wants a move in the future, I am aware of the shop-window effect. I know Northern Ireland will present a really tough challenge. They are 90-minute players and they’re very fit.
“My coach warned me about these in particular, that they’ll just go all night, so it will be a big game. I just hope the game is a night to remember.”