Mitchell Duke has revealed he will head to England in order to stay fit and in Socceroos contention for an Asian Cup call-up, after his club season came to an end this week.
The Socceroos striker helped Machida Zelvia achieve promotion from J2, finishing top in the Japanese second tier, putting together one of his best club seasons to date scoring 10 league goals and tallying six assists.
Zelvia played their final game of the season on November 12, meaning Duke has just one game left to play before the Asian Cup: the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Palestine in Kuwait on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
It puts the striker in the unique position of being in the off-season, while the majority of his teammates continue playing as the European season continues, meaning he will have to find different avenues to keep himself not only in contention for a call-up come January, but fit.
The 32-year-old revealed his plan to ready himself for the tournament to take place in Qatar.
“It’s a bit of tough timing with the way the J.League is set,” he said.
“I have a good break in between now and the first Asian Cup game, so for me to put myself into contention for selection, I’ve got to stay fit and in good condition, and that’s not just individual training, so I’m trying to work out solutions.
“I’ll be in the UK during December trying to find a club that’s going to accept me to train with them to stay in not just individual fitness, but football fitness as well, like with a team environment and playing with the ball and as well.
“I’ve got a few clubs on the list that’s willing to help me out and I’ve just got to make the decision.”
Duke, however, said he won’t be linking up with any of the clubs that some of his international teammates are based in England, revealing four different clubs are “in the mix”.
“I’ll be trying to locate myself closer to my two kids over there in High Wycombe,” he said.
“So there’s like Wycombe Wanderers, Watford, Reading and QPR were kind of in the mix, so just got to make that decision now so I can be close to my kids while also staying fit.”
Duke took his tally to 14 goals between league, cup and international football, in the Socceroos’ 7-0 win over Bangladesh, firing home a first-half brace.
It’s his equal-best club season since the 2019-20 season with Western Sydney Wanderers, where he scored 14 goals, meaning a goal against Palestine will make it officially his best season to date.
“My football just seems to be getting better and better for myself, which has been really enjoyable,” Duke said.
“I’m just loving life at the moment. I’m happy outside of football as well, which helps and yeah, it’s just showing on the pitch and I’m just grateful for every opportunity that I get to play for my national team.
“I just approach it as if it could be my last as well, so for me with that mentality, I think that helps my performances and ruthlessness, for myself to keep banging in and keeping those young ones away!”
He also confirmed the goal scored against New Zealand last month is officially now his as well, after deliberation between he and Harry Souttar over who claims the honours.
“It’s still getting brought up, even in the build up to the Bangladesh game,” he said.
“They showed a video of what we did in the last camp, a bit of a review and then Arnie was joking again, saying that was Harry’s goal and probably if there was VAR, he probably would have got given it, but the referee put my name down.
“I did all the work. He didn’t know anything about it, so it’s definitely all mine!”
The Socceroos sit top of Group I after the first matchday, with their next-up opponents Palestine being held to a 0-0 draw with Lebanon overnight.
Palestine are the second-highest ranked team in their group and are set to pose a much greater challenge to Bangladesh, who Australia breezed past at AAMI Park.
The match will take place in Kuwait as a result of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, with a strong crowd expected to fill the terraces at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium.
“We heard the game could be sold out, which is crazy and exciting as well,” Duke said.
“You love a good atmosphere, and it is going to be probably a little bit hostile and they’re they’re going to create as much of a home advantage for themselves as they can.
“But a lot of the boys have probably experienced it and the others that haven’t it would be a great learning experience for them as well.
“We’re all prepared mentally and physically, we’re in great condition, so we’re ready to take that test and start off this campaign with two wins.
“It’s definitely going to be an emotional game. They’re going to be up for it. Challenges are going to be strong, physically, it’s going to be a tough game, and the intensity is going to be high.
“We need to just make sure we’re prepared for that mentally and physically, which I know we will be, not to get caught up in it or anything.
“If people try to rile you up or or things like that, you’ve just got to make sure you stay composed and mentally in the game and focusing on our job at hand, and that’s just getting the three points.”