The Newcastle Jets have confirmed the signings of veteran English striker Michael Bridges and attacking midfielder Mitch Cooper, as tipped yesterday by The Herald.
Bridges, 34, has re-signed for another season while Cooper joins the Jets on a two-year deal.
More to come
Jets prospecting for gold: Cooper poised to join Coast exodus
HE was the little-known 17-year-old at the centre of the captaincy furore at the Gold Coast that began a snowball of events that resulted in billionaire businessman Clive Palmer losing his A-League licence.
Now Mitch Cooper may be on his way to the Jets.
The Newcastle Herald understands that the Jets have been in talks with the attacking midfielder who created headlines when plucked from obscurity by Palmer to captain Gold Coast on debut in a 1-0 loss to Melbourne Heart in February.
The former Joeys representative went on play six A-League games, five as a starter.
Cooper, who has been training with Brisbane Roar to keep fit, would be the third former Gold Coast United young gun to join the Jets following James Brown and Josh Brillante.
Brillante, 19, had also been working with the Roar before signing a two-year deal with the Jets.
Palmer’s move to elevate Cooper to the captaincy in place of suspended regular skipper Michael Thwaite for the round 21 clash against Melbourne Heart stunned the football community.
Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg was suspended then sacked after he described the appointment as ceremonial and refused to back Palmer in his dispute with Football Federation Australia.
That battle became a war and after some publicity stunts Palmer’s licence was revoked.
The Jets’ policy is not to comment on negotiations but sources in Brisbane have told the Herald Cooper has been offered a contract.
Coach Gary van Egmond put a broom through the Jets squad after the club failed to make the finals for a second season, releasing 10 players including veterans Kasey Wehrman, Byun Sung-hwan, Francis Jeffers and Matt Nash.
The average age of the squad that assembled this week for pre-season training was 22, compared with 26.5 last season.
Apprentices Connor Chapman and Mitch Oxborrow are the youngest at 17. Brazilian defender Tiago, 31, and Ryan Griffiths, 30, are the only players older than 27.
Of the six players the Jets have recruited, Scott Neville is most senior at 23. James Brown is 22, Mark Birighitti 21, Craig Goodwin 20 and Adam Taggart and Brillante are 19.
‘‘Brown, Neville and Brillante have played 10 to 20-plus A-League games,’’ said assistant coach Craig Deans, who has deputised for van Egmond this week. The coach is undertaking his Pro Licence in Sydney.
‘‘They are not untested at this level,’’ Deans said.
‘‘Birighitti you can put in as well, they are all more than capable of playing in the A-League and have shown that.
‘‘Scotty played for Perth Glory for four years and has captained the club. You don’t do that unless you are a good footballer.
‘‘He has come here because he wants to get better and he wants to learn as a footballer. That is the attitude we are looking for.
‘‘Josh and Adam are younger. They have had the one year in the A-League and are still finding their feet but are more than comfortable in this environment.’’
The Jets have room on the 23-man roster for five more players but are most likely to go with a squad of 21 or 22.
Veteran English striker Michael Bridges, 34, is expected to sign a one-year extension in the next week, leaving a proven striker and creative midfielder to find.
‘‘They will be the two most important players to come in,’’ Deans said.
‘‘Every club would love to have a [Besart] Berisha or [Shane] Smeltz ... If you find someone like that you are heading in the right direction, but it is a challenge.’’