Hodge | Playing in Dublin with Wolves 'will be special'

Joe Hodge is hoping Wolves’ upcoming pre-season friendly against Celtic at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will be his first of many games playing at the home of Irish football.

Having captained the Republic of Ireland’s under-21s recently, the midfielder is determined to become a ‘big player’ for Julen Lopetegui’s Old Gold side this season which he hopes will ultimately lead to a first chance for his country at senior level.

Click here to buy tickets for Wolves vs Celtic.

On playing at the Aviva Stadium

“I’m buzzing for it. I can’t wait, to be honest. Celtic are a top side – everyone knows that – they are a huge football club and hopefully it should make for a good game in a class stadium.

“I’ve been a couple of times to the Aviva before, I’ve never played there though, but I’ve watched a fair few games, so hopefully if I get a game there at the end of this month it will be first of many I get there.

“I want to play there for Ireland and hopefully I’ll be playing there in the Aviva in a green jersey this season. That’s the aim for me.

“But getting the chance to go there with Wolves and play in front of a home crowd – although I know a lot of them will be supporting Celtic – will be special and hopefully the first of many.”

On aims with Wolves this season

“We’re just looking to finish as high as we can in the table this year. We all wanted to finish higher than where we ended up last year, but we did have a good second half to the season, so I think we’re all hoping to finish higher up the table.

“For me, I’m just focused on doing the best I can in pre-season. I’m trying to get my way in the team, and I know I want to play for Wolves, I want to become a starter here, so that’s all I’m trying to do and then we’ll see where we go throughout pre-season for me personally.”

On having big ambitions

“I want to be a big player for Wolves. I want to play, I want to play every week, and I’m fine saying that. I want to improve from where I started last year and just keep getting better and better and hopefully become an important player for the gaffer here.

“That’s my ambition and whether I can do that or not it’s up to me, and other factors as well, but all I can do is try my best to end up a big player here. But all I’m doing is focusing on my performances here in pre-season and see where I end up.

“If that sets me up for a loan move, that’s fine, but my focus is firstly trying to get into the team here and prove to the gaffer that I can be an important player for him.”

On working under Lopetegui

“We’ve spoken and he’s made it clear to me what I need to do to get in the team and be more involved. Obviously, I would have wanted more minutes last year, but it’s just the top level of the squad and it’s not easy to get those minutes.

“I’m just trying to listen to what he’s telling me and improve on the things he’s saying to me and hopefully that leads to me getting more game time and become a more important player.

“I didn’t have much time with the previous gaffer, so I can’t say what the huge differences [Lopetegui’s made] because I came in when James [Collins] and Steve [Davis] were the gaffers, but from what I’ve seen, everyone has been dead positive and have enjoyed being here.

“Everyone is pulling together and hopefully we can build on what we started last season and kick on this year.”

On wearing the armband for Ireland’s under-21s

“I enjoyed it. I feel like the squad that I’m part of means it’s not a difficult task and it’s a good group of boys and everyone pulls together whenever I’m with the 21s.

“But I love it, I love being part of the 21s, it’s class, and I loved the summer break, although I only got one game, but it was a good couple of weeks and I’m loving it so far.”

On a possible senior Ireland call-up

“I’m dying to be part of the squad. I feel like if I can perform to the level that I know I’m capable of and get more minutes under my belt then I’m sure I will be in contention to being called up. That’s definitely my intention because I want to play for Ireland and hopefully as soon as possible.

“Jim [Crawford] in the under-21s talks to us a lot about the pathways because there are so many lads I’ve played with at 21s level – it was just last September when I was playing with Will [Smallbone] and Evan [Ferguson] – who have now gone on and played how many games for the first-team.

“There’s definitely a pathway there for us and I think it’s clear for us all to see and I’m aiming for that this season.”