Socceroos defender Harry Souttar has weighed in on rumours linking him to a Premier League move, describing it as “paper talk”.

After a sensational start to the season at English Championship side Stoke City, both The Sun and Football Insider have reported Everton, Tottenham and now, Aston Villa are interested in the 22-year-old’s services.

When asked about the links on Sunday evening, Souttar remained coy about his future, making it clear his focus is currently not on the speculation surrounding a potential big-money move.

“I think it’s all paper talk to be honest with you,” Souttar said.

“There’s been a lot of things said but I tend not to try and read that or try and get involved in that at all… we just started October and the transfer market has been and gone,

“My focus is right now is fully on the Socceroos and as soon as I get back to club football, it’s truly on Stoke City and trying to get the club promoted back to the Premier League.”

Souttar’s form at club-land has carried over to the international scene, quickly becoming a linchpin in Graham Arnold’s best XI and forming a formidable partnership in the heart of defence with veteran Trent Sainsbury – conceding only once in their opening three final round qualifiers.

The Scottish born centre-back put down their superb defensive record down to not only the valuable experience he has gained playing alongside seasoned veterans in Sainsbury and goal-keeper Mathew Ryan, but also the belief and trust in amongst the entire squad.

“Obviously, Trent has over 50 caps so the experience he brings is second-to-none for me playing alongside him,” Souttar said.

“We’ve got Matty Ryan behind us, sixty plus caps so it’s been quite straight-forward for me coming in and listening to them, taking advice off them but I think it’s the work we do on the training pitch together, the messages we’ve got for each-other,

“Like I touched on before, the belief we have got as a team and as a squad that knowing the person next to you is going to be there for you,

“If you make a mistake, the person next to you is going to be be there and I think that’s so important especially at international football but it’s the top level and little things can go against you that you can’t control.”

However, Souttar and his team-mates will come up against their greatest test in this qualification campaign thus far when they take on Japan in Saitama on Tuesday night.

The Blue Samurai sit in third place in Group B, falling further behind Australia and Saudi Arabia who occupy the top-two positions in the group after losing 1-0 to the latter last Friday.

Should they not leap-frog either of the sides above them, they’ll need to play another two rounds of qualifiers to seal their passage to Qatar.

Not only is it a must-win game for the home-side, but potentially for coach Hajime Moriyasu with reports emerging from Japan that he may be sacked should they lose against the Socceroos for the first-time since 2009.

Souttar made it clear that despite having an understanding of Japan’s recent struggles, the squad are concentrating on their own performances as they look to extend their record-breaking winning streak to 12 games.

“We’re aware of every result in the group,” Souttar said.

“I think it would be silly of all of us not to look at different results in the group and stuff because we all watch football and we all look at different results but their form hasn’t been discussed by anyone,

“You can say there’s pressure on them, obviously we’ve seen the results they’ve had but I think that us a group we put pressure on ourselves, we drive ourselves forward,

“We’ve got 11 wins, obviously it’s the record but we want to go for 12, we’re not happy with 11, we’re looking for the next one,

“One of the key messages from this camp has been to take it game by game and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve done so well.”

Japan vs Australia
Date: Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Venue: Saitama Stadium, Saitama, Japan
Kick-off: 9:14pm (AEDT)

Nick D’Urbano