Ireland striker Scott Hogan is adamant he is not yet at his peak, having finally found happiness in his career.
The well-travelled Birmingham frontman, 30, was reunited with his international counterparts, who bagged a Sky Bet Championship hat-trick in a 3-2 win at West Brom last week for their current good form.
However, when asked where his game is, he said: “I don’t like to think I’m at the top, I’d like to think I’m improving.
“I’m happy at my club now, which is the first time I’ve been able to say that in four or five years, so I feel comfortable. I’m allowed to be myself and the main thing is that I’m finally happy.
“I feel happy when I play football, I enjoy playing, so I hope not with the highlight. We always want to go forward and get better.
“I’m 30 now and that’s when you generally peak, they say, but I hope to keep going. I’m looking after myself and hopefully this is just the beginning.
Former Rochdale trainee Hogan joined Aston Villa from Brentford for £9m in January 2017, but his 61 appearances over three-and-a-half seasons at Villa Park yielded just 10 goals and, after loan spells at Sheffield United, Stoke and Birmingham, he will join the Blues permanently in 2022 in September.
At a difficult time in his career, Hogan went two-and-a-half years without an Ireland cap until he came off the bench in March’s 1-0 friendly against Lithuania and Stephen got his first start in 33 months. Kenny played in Poland’s 1-1 Nations League draw with Ukraine in June.
Hogan admitted: “It was just completely unexpected. I remember talking to the manager. I hadn’t started a club game I think three months before, so it was completely unexpected. But it just showed that there’s always a way back as long as you perform.
“As you get older you think, ‘I’m not performing at club level, is it going to happen again?’, but the manager has proven that if you play well he will pick you, so hopefully I can continue to play well in club football and transfer that to the country .”
Hogan, who made his debut in a 1-0 friendly in Turkey in March 2018, has 11 caps and will be hoping to add a 12th – and first international goal – against Scotland at Hampden Park on Saturday as Ireland look to repeat their 3-0 home win in June.
He said: “The confidence is as high as I’ve ever seen it in an Irish team. It’s just knowing we can do it and just believing that’s the way we want to play and the more we do it, hopefully results like that will come more regularly.