After making his New Zealand All Whites debut on Tuesday night, striker Jai Ingham is putting friendships on hold as he makes his return to Melbourne Victory to take on some of his international teammates when they host the Wellington Phoenix this Sunday night.
Phoenix players Andrew Durante, Michael McGlinchey, Tom Doyle, Alex Rufer and Shane Smeltz were all part of the New Zealand side that beat Fiji 2-0 in Wellington on Tuesday night, while goalkeeper Glen Moss was an unused substitute.
Despite building strong ties in the New Zealand camp over the past few weeks, Ingham is fully focused on the task in front of him and ready to embrace some healthy competition.
“They’re all great guys but when you go back to your club and you play against them, you play for the jersey you put on,” he said.
“I’m going to go back and hope to keep performing for my club Melbourne Victory and hopefully Marco (Rojas) and I will look to have a good performance and lead them to the finals.”
Ingham also acknowledged that competitiveness among teammates is nothing new in the All Whites camp, with each player eager to cement their place in Anthony Hudson’s 23-man squad for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia this June.
“Hopefully I make the 23-man squad but there’s so much depth here and so much quality that you’ve always got to keep performing no matter what because at any moment you can slip up and lose that opportunity,” he said.
“There’s so much competition for positions here, especially up in that front third, and we have some quality players that play overseas and are performing over there as well.
“It’s healthy and it’s good competition.”
Younger brother Dane is also looking to book his tickets to Russia.
The 17-year-old is in with a good shot after an impressive 90 minute debut performance against Fiji and his older brother is confident the two have a lot still to offer.
“He’s a good kid, he’s a very good kid and he had a great debut tonight I thought,” Ingham said.
“He’s very confident for his age, at 17 years old it’s an amazing achievement for not just him but my family as well.”
The brothers were also eligible to represent both Australia and Samoa, who had looked to include the elder Ingham in their OFC Nations Cup – a call-up he turned down.
But Jai is feeling very confident about their decision to join the All Whites.
“Playing for the All Whites is huge. It’s an honour to put this jersey on and I don’t look back on it at all. I talked to Anthony once on the phone and he didn’t try to convince me at all or anything, what he said was very positive and he has a great vision here with the All Whites squad,” he said.
“Everyone’s welcomed us so much and all the boys are very supportive and positive, it’s great to be a part of.”