JOBE Wheelhouse has made a belated start to his second season as captain of the Newcastle Jets.
But after surgery in May to remove a troublesome bursa from his left foot, the whole-hearted midfielder is back in full training and could make his first appearance of the pre-season against the Northern NSW Select side at Darling St Oval tonight.
“He might get a little run towards the end to ease him back in,’’ Jets assistant coach Craig Deans said yesterday.
‘‘It would be about 20 minutes max, if anything.”
Exactly where Wheelhouse fits in to coach Gary van Egmond’s remodelled Jets outfit remains to be seen.
Van Egmond put a broom through the Jets roster in the off-season, releasing 11 players from the side that missed the A-League finals for a second straight year.
He has also tweaked his formation, changing from a 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-2-3.
Wheelhouse’s preferred position is as a holding midfielder.
Young Socceroos captain Ben Kantarovski has started in that role in trial wins over Broadmeadow Magic (3-1) and the Canberra Rockets (9-1) and appears to have the front running.
Ruben Zadkovich has been pushed forward from right full-back into an advanced role in midfield on the same side. Recruits James Brown and Craig Goodwin and young gun Jacob Pepper have been used on the other side of midfield.
‘‘Jobe can play anywhere,’’ Deans said. ‘‘He is a quality player. He is good on the ball, his passing range is good, his communication is good.
‘‘At times last year we played him as a bit of a false number nine or an attacking number 10.
‘‘He has the ability to play further forward, but he also has the passing range to play a little deeper.
‘‘As we get closer to the start of the season it is up to him to show us he has the ability to play in either of those areas.’’
The Jets still have at least two places to fill on the roster.
‘‘The priority is a number nine,’’ Deans said.
‘‘We have had hundreds of emails and DVDs sent in.
‘‘We have narrowed it down to three or four who tick a majority of boxes.
‘‘It is a matter of negotiating with the players. Them being overseas, it takes a little bit longer because you are not doing it face to face. We would like to get it done as quick as we can. Hopefully it is not too far away.’’
Northern Select have trained together just twice in preparation for tonight’s contest and co-coach Damien Smith is under no illusions about the task confronting his outfit.
‘‘You know playing the Jets they are going to have a lot of the ball,’’ he said. ‘‘We need to be well organised defensively. Dutchy [van Egmond] loves his possession-based game.
‘‘When Magic played them our boys felt like they were doing doggies for 90 minutes.
‘‘We will try and stay as compact as possible and put some pressure on them when we can.’’
The Jets thrashed the Canberra Rockets representative side 9-1 last week, but Smith was confident of a bold showing by his team.
‘‘It’s difficult when you are putting a side together quickly. We are representing Northern NSW so we obviously want to do as best we can.
‘‘Plus, some of the young boys like Scott Pettit, Daniel Bird and a few others have a chance to play in front of Gary and against the Jets.’’