Striker, attacking midfielder top priorities for Jets

COACH Gary van Egmond is most likely to look to Europe for the final key pieces to the Newcastle Jets’ jigsaw puzzle but fans should not expect Michael Owen or another fading star.

Van Egmond oversaw his first pre-season training session yesterday after missing the opening week while completing his UEFA Pro Licence in Sydney.

The Jets missed the A-League finals last season for a second straight year.

Van Egmond inherited that squad from Branko Culina and has spent the off-season rebuilding the roster.

He released 10 players and replaced them with a bunch of exciting youngsters headed by James Brown, Craig Goodwin and Scott Neville.

The Jets have filled 19 of a maximum 23 places and the coach admits the next two signatures will be the most important.

Priorities are a striker and an attacking midfielder.

‘‘We are looking probably moreso at overseas players for the final couple of spots,’’ van Egmond said yesterday.

‘‘I would suggest they are most likely to come from Europe but not 100per cent.’’

Van Egmond said the financial crisis in Europe could work in the Jets’ favour. ‘‘There are a lot of quality players who are looking for a gig,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to get some experience and we also need certain types of players.

‘‘It is not just what position they play.’’

Van Egmond has been poring over resumes and DVDs and is in the process of compiling a shortlist.

The Jason Culina impasse is expected to be settled soon, which will free up a marquee position.

The Herald understands the Jets have plenty of room in the $2.4million salary cap to work.

The Jets were linked to a move for Liverpool great and former England captain Michael Owen not long after Nathan Tinkler took over the club, but van Egmond all but ruled out a play for a similar star.

‘‘It doesn’t have to be a big-name player,’’ he said.

‘‘They have to be effective and balance the playing group we already have. All due respect to Michael Owen, he has been a magnificent player but he has been injured for the past two or three years on a consistent level.

‘‘The players we are looking at will have to have a work ethic and fit into the team and the philosophy of how we want to play.’’

Van Egmond had intended to travel to Europe on a scouting mission but those plans were thrown out when Tinkler handed the licence back, placing the club in limbo for three weeks.

‘‘We have quite a substantial number of contacts [overseas] we know we can trust,’’ he said.

‘‘It is a matter of us being able to filter through the options and get the best person.

‘‘We need to take our time and make sure we get the right person.’’

In the meantime, van Egmond’s focus will be on the group he has assembled.

‘‘With the game we want to play, Neville and Goodwin, in particular, will give us more mobility down the flanks,’’ the coach said.

‘‘Browny has a little bit of an X-factor about him.’’

The Jets’ pre-season will be broken into two stages.

The second is likely to include an overseas tour at least a month before the A-League kicks off in October.

‘‘Early on we will build into our season and play lower intensity-type [pre-season] games,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘We plan to not only incorporate [games against] more A-League clubs but also overseas teams.

‘‘We have some good links in Asia now and are looking at China, Korea and India.

‘‘There are good opportunities for us to go over there and also broaden the brand.’’

Captain Jobe Wheelhouse had surgery yesterday to remove a bursa from his foot and will be sidelined for a month.

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