JETS striker Emile Heskey may be in the twilight of his career, but the former England international proved he can match it with the young guns yesterday.
Heskey, who turns 35 next month, gave Mitch Cooper nearly 17 years and a few metres head start but was still too quick in a 50-metre match race after training at Ray Watt Oval.
After nearly stumbling at the start, Heskey mowed down the cocky 18-year-old and cleared away to win looking over his shoulder, much to the delight of teammates.
‘‘Sometimes you have to put the young ones in their place and show them what it is all about,’’ Heskey said, laughing.
‘‘We are old at heart but still young in the legs.’’
Cooper, who floored teammate James Brown in a good-natured boxing bout after training last month, had challenged Heskey to the race.
‘‘It was at training and we were doing short sprints and I was beating Mitch,’’ Heskey said. ‘‘He said we will have a race over a longer distance and I told him, ‘No problem. Whenever you are ready.’’’
Heskey hopes to have similar success against Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night. The former Liverpool star scored the Jets’ second goal in a 3-2 win over the Sky Blues in round two.
Tinkler’s fortunes don’t faze Heskey
MARQUEE striker Emile Heskey said speculation over the financial position of Jets owner Nathan Tinkler would have little bearing when he opened contract talks with the club next month.
The 34-year-old former England international signed a seven-month, $700,000 deal in October.
Since then there has been growing uncertainty over the future of the coal baron’s empire.
The Australian Tax Office moved last week to wind up the Jets, Newcastle Knights and parent company Hunter Sports Group over a $3.19million debt.
A number of other Tinkler-linked companies either have faced or are facing action.
Hunter Sports Group chief executive Troy Palmer said on Sunday that the ATO bill would be finalised in the ‘‘next seven to 10 days’’ and has indicated other creditors will be paid in due course.
Palmer had a meeting with Knights Members Club board on Monday night to clear the air on a number of issues.
He admitted HSG had experienced cashflow problems but insisted that Tinker’s finances were in a sound position, despite reports to the contrary.
When asked yesterday if the conjecture would impact on his negotiations, Heskey said: ‘‘Not really. Come January we will sit down and have a discussion.
‘‘I doubt that will have an impact on anything.
‘‘I’m sure the off-field stuff will sort itself out over a period of time.’’
The Knights have a $20million bank guarantee that can be activated if HSG fails to meet its commitments.
The Jets, taken over by Tinkler two years ago after former owner Con Constantine could not pay wages, do not have the same security. But Palmer, speaking on ABC radio yesterday, assured fans of the club’s future.
‘‘The Jets are as secure as the Knights,’’ he said.
‘‘They may not have a bank guarantee, but they have Nathan’s guarantee and my guarantee.
‘‘No one is more passionate about the Jets than myself.
‘‘I wish we were scoring a few more goals and winning a few more games.
‘‘But the Jets aren’t going anywhere, the Knights aren’t going anywhere and Nathan’s not going anywhere. Let’s not forget who is coaching the Knights and who is playing up front for the Jets.
‘‘Fans can be confident that they will have two great competitive teams in the future.’’
Heskey, one of nine players off contract, has been impressed by the league and is keen to stay.
‘‘I’m enjoying it,’’ he said.
‘‘We have a good bunch of lads. I am enjoying the town and everything about it.
‘‘It’s a good league.
‘‘We have some good players, good teams ... it is a good competition.’’
Heskey’s agent, Marshall Struan, is travelling from England to conduct negotiations.
The Jets are likely to face stiff competition after reports that clubs in Russia and Asia have expressed an interest in the former Liverpool frontman.
‘‘That is the first I have heard about that,’’ Heskey said.
‘‘There will be a bit of interest. I will sit down in January and go through it.’’
For now, Heskey’s focus is on Sydney FC and arresting the Jets’ recent slide.
They enter the clash at Hunter Stadium on Saturday determined to end a three-game losing streak and record their first win since a 2-1 triumph over Western Sydney six weeks ago, which co-coincided with the last of Heskey’s five goals.
‘‘It’s not just me that’s getting frustrated, it’s the whole team,’’ Heskey said.
‘‘It’s up to us to have formulas to break them down. If people are putting two or three men on me, there’s space elsewhere for people to exploit, so we’ve got to look at that. We have to do things better.
‘‘We are conceding too many goals and not scoring enough, so we have got things to work on.’’
The Jets stunned Sydney 3-2 in front of 35,419 fans at Allianz Stadium in round two, the home debut of the Sky Blues’ Italian maestro, Alessandro Del Piero.
The performance, in particular the first half, remains Newcastle’s best this season.
‘‘‘Playing against big players, you always want to do your best and you always want to play against the big teams,’’ Heskey said.
‘‘We do try to emulate that, but different games bring different formations and different formulas, so you can’t really play the same every game.
‘‘We’re working on things and that’s what we’re going to try and emulate ... to put in performances like that more regularly’’