Brad Smith’s start to the season just has not been good, and does not appear to be taking an upward turn any time soon.
The left-side of defence has long proven a problem area for the Socceroos despite an increase in highly talented, skilful options in that position.
The hugely gifted Smith is one of those players, plying his trade in England’s top flight with an ambitious club looking to break into a new weight category.
But since the 23-year-old moved to AFC Bournemouth from Liverpool in 2016, the change of scenery just has not gone as was hoped.
Four matches into the new Premier League season and five in all competitions, Smith has seen just 90 minutes of a possible 450.
That came in in the Cherries’ League Cup win at St Andrews over Birmingham City; the competition is not exactly known as the be-all and end-all by football fans.
In the league, Smith has not seen a single minute of action and has struggled just to make it onto Eddie Howe’s bench, something he has achieved in just two matches.
That frustrating trend continued at the weekend as Bournemouth were humbled 3-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates.
That lack of match fitness and sharpness showed in the Socceroos’ lacklustre 2-0 defeat in Saitama against Japan a fortnight ago.
Smith’s involvement – or lack thereof – in Japan’s opening goal does not need to be revisited by the Australian football public.
“My question would be, ‘where’s the intent (to move away)?’ That’s not to say he didn’t want to move out, maybe he just wants to stay and fight for his spot,” Optus Sport’s Richard Bayliss said on Monday’s Daily Football Show.
“We didn’t even really see the wheels in motion during the transfer window of him being to linked to anywhere else, so you wonder whether his people a pushing for that or whether he’s in a comfortable situation for whatever reason.
“He did come into the Socceroos XI in Japan so if he’s got that carat knowing that, ‘hang on, I don’t need first team football, I’m going to go to a World Cup’.
“At what point does he get the reality check that ‘no no, you need to play every week’?
“It is a shame. I’ve been looking for his name on the team sheet for the last, it feels like 15 months, but it’s pretty rare to see it on there.
“He has to get out and play.”
Everyone wants to see Smith succeed. No Australian football fan hopes one of their own fails.
And Smith is clearly good enough. There is a reason why he ended up on Merseyside in 2008, and when the time came for a new challenge, why he remained in the world’s best football league.
Ultimately, Ange Postecoglou as well as all of us as fans need Smith playing and performing to create crucial competition for places in a troublesome slot.
For what we hope is just nine months away from a World Cup, our first choice players – and Smith has shown himself to be a Postecoglou favourite – must be on the pitch and playing.
With the summer transfer window just expired, four more long months await until Smith’s next opportunity to escape Dean Court.
When January rolls around, he simply has to move on, even on loan.
By then we will know our World Cup fate after a combined four play-offs, but underdone legs cannot be on that plane.