Republic of Ireland striker Scott Hogan is convinced he has yet to reach his peak after finally finding happiness in his career.
The well-travelled Birmingham frontman, 30, met his international colleagues after being rewarded for his current good form with a Sky Bet Championship hat-trick in a 3-2 win at West Brom last week.
However, when asked about 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 now at my club, it’s the first time I can say that in four or five years, so I feel comfortable. I have the right to be myself and the main thing is that I am finally happy.
“I feel happy playing football, I like going there, so in terms of peak, I hope not. We always want to continue and improve.
“I’m 30 now and around this time you usually peak, they say, but hopefully I’ll keep going. I take care of myself and hope this is just the beginning.
Former Rochdale trainee Hogan won a £9m move to Aston Villa from Brentford in January 2017, but his 61 appearances over three-and-a-half seasons at Villa Park yielded just 10 goals and after spells of on loan at Sheffield United, Stoke and Birmingham, he joined the Blues on a permanent basis in September 2022.
During a difficult period in his career, Hogan spent two and a half years without an Irish cap until he came off the bench in March’s 1-0 friendly win over Lithuania, and he earned a first start in 33 months by Stephen Kenny in the 1-1 Nations League draw with Ukraine in Poland in June.
Hogan admitted: “It was just totally unexpected. I remember talking to the manager. I don’t think I had started a club game in the previous three months, so it was out of the blue. But it just showed that there’s always a way to go back, as long as you’re playing.
“As you get older you think, ‘I’m not performing at club level, will that come back? “But the manager has proven that if you play well he will choose you, so hopefully I can continue to play well in club football and transfer it to the country.
Hogan, who made his debut in a 1-0 friendly defeat in Turkey in March 2018, has 11 caps to his name and will be hoping to add a 12th – and first international goal – against Scotland at Hampden Park on Saturday as Ireland are looking to repeat their 3-0 home win in June.
He said: “The confidence is as high as I’ve ever seen in an Irish team. It’s just about knowing we can do it and believing that’s how we want to play, and the more we do, hopefully those results will come with more regularity.