Merrick backs Thwaite's Roos hopes

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has backed defender Michael Thwaite's Socceroos' credentials, saying the 25-year-old just needs to get fit and play consistent football to stay on Pim Verbeek's radar.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has backed defender Michael Thwaite's Socceroos' credentials, saying the 25-year-old just needs to get fit and play consistent football to stay on Pim Verbeek's radar.

Thwaite has played six games for Australia but has not played since Australia drew 0-0 with Singapore before last year's Asian Cup. Thwaite was in the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Qatar in February but missed out and has not been in Pim Verbeek's squad since.

On his return to Australia, Thwaite said he wanted to use the Hyundai A-League to push his claim for national selection. But while there have been a few positives so far in his stint with Victory, there has also been the ankle injury which has seen him miss two matches.

Merrick admitted on Thursday that hasn't helped Thwaite with his national ambitions, but said he was a strong character and talented player who would work hard to get himself back in the mind of the national coach.

"Michael went overseas when there was no full-time professional football in Australia," Merrick said.

"He did it tough in Romania, went to Poland and then Norway, and he had a lot of success initially. But sometimes it's a case of where you are and who the coach is. He's always had the ability and he's proven that with his representation at Socceroos level."

"Before he got injured he was playing some of his best football. I think it's a case of keep doing what you are doing, get fit again, he'll be fit this weekend, and I think he's been a great signing for us and we'd love to keep him for the long term. That's a job for Gary Cole."

Thwaite's not the only player in Melbourne's squad dreaming of the World Cup in 2010. Archie Thompson and Jose Luis Lopez are currently away with Australia and Costa Rica respectively.

Merrick admitted Thompson's history of picking up injuries when away on Socceroos camp has him a little nervous.

"There's no doubt about it. Especially when Archie goes off, he seems to always come back injured," he said. "I'm hoping that Jose Luis Lopez comes back ok. We've also got two boys away with the under-20s who will be back in another week. Injuries aside, it's a great thing to represent your country."

With Thompson in Brisbane, Merrick can at least keep a reasonably close eye on his marquee player. But with Lopez set to play games in Costa Rica and Suriname, it makes it a lot harder to track the progress of the defensive midfielder.

"If they get one more point from two matches they qualify for the next round. We're hoping that they get that point in the first match and he doesn't have to play the second match," he said.

"It's a bit hopeful right now. I need to strike up a relationship with the new coach who I believe is receptive to keeping communication channels open."

"World Cup is important to every country, as is national duty. We strongly support the players in their endeavours to play for the national team. If you've got good players then you will lose them to the national team."

Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.