GETHIN Jones got a rough introduction to life as an international footballer – but he can’t wait to give it another go!

Following Australia’s exit at the Asian Cup in Qatar the Bolton vice-captain had a 17-hour journey back to the UK, a training session at Lostock and a four-hour coach journey down to Cambridge United to play just nine minutes of football on Tuesday night.

Jones wasn’t looking for sympathy – and ensured every player marched back out into the rain at the Abbey Stadium to salute the hundreds of supporters who had spent their money making a fruitless trip.

Fancied Australia had crashed out of the Asian Cup at the quarter-final stage with defeat against South Korea on Friday.

Graham Arnold’s side had enjoyed mixed reviews during the tournament, particularly in the group stages where defensive opponents proved tough to break down.

Jones also had to cope with the rough and the smooth, dropped for the Korea game after a groin injury scare in the win against Indonesia, he managed to avoid the worst of the flak in what most Aussie media outlets felt had been an underperforming campaign.

None of the above will stop Jones doing it all again, however, and though his switch from Wales to the Socceroos turned heads before the tournament, he would now relish the chance to earn more caps.

“Obviously international football is a lot, lot different to club football,” he told The Bolton News. “They praise and criticise everything you do, and it’s a big nation with lots of opinions.

“But playing international football is something I’d always wanted to do. I loved every minute of it and, hopefully, if I keep playing well for Bolton then I’ll get that call-up again.

“Playing against countries like India or Syria – ones you’d never even think you’d face growing up – and while they made it difficult, the games themselves were enjoyable.

“I was gutted to be knocked out by South Korea in the end but for myself playing on a big stage like the Asian Cup, so it is something I am really proud I did.”

Australia continue their qualification efforts for the 2026 World Cup finals with a two-legged game against Lebanon next month.

Jones accepts that the travelling involved will not always marry well with club football in Europe but he hopes to keep up his form for Bolton, so that he can at least stay in the international frame for the tournament in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

“I spoke to a few of the lads and they said it can be difficult at times,” he said.

“One of the games next month is in Sydney and you pretty much fly out on the Monday, train for two days and get used to the time difference, play the game, then go back.

“My focus is on playing well for Bolton and getting those call-ups if I can. To know the World Cup is there in two-and-a-half years is a huge and it is something that I’ll obviously work hard to try and achieve. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

Jack Iredale has also got international ambitions, having been on Australia’s radar over the last 12 months.

Jones sees no reason why his team-mate cannot make the step by helping Wanderers push for promotion from League One.

“Jack can definitely do it,” he said. “Arnie (Graham Arnold), Rene (Meulensteen) and Tony Vidmar were asking about him, how he was getting on, and I know they have watched him as well. If he keeps doing well then I think that chance can come for him too.

“It is a really good culture there and after a couple of days I’d settled in well. I’d only known Harry Souttar before from playing with him at Fleetwood but it was a welcoming group.

“Jack’s a good player and if he keeps showing that at Bolton I hope he gets the call up as well.”

Both players’ international chances would be improved by Wanderers securing a top two spot this season and returning to the Championship.

With three games in hand on leaders Portsmouth, Bolton face a heavy schedule between now and May, but Jones feels there is enough quality in the squad to cope with the task.

“We need to catch up on the games and we’ll need to focus on them because they’ll be coming thick and fast for us now,” he said. “Now I am back, my focus is on the club and making sure we get to the target we set ourselves at the start of the season, which is obviously promotion.”

Jet-lagged and powered by energy drinks, Jones said it did not take him long to get back among the banter at the training ground on Monday morning.

“Everyone says my accent changes – when I first came here, Ducky (Lewis Duckmanton) and the gaffer were doing to Welsh accent but as soon as I stepped foot on the training ground on Monday it was the Aussie accent. It is all fun and games.

“I have enjoyed it all but I’m excited to get going again for Saturday now.”