Jets strike out again in recruitment

NEWCASTLE Jets coach Gary van Egmond will revert to "plan G" but stressed it was not time to panic after recruitment target Joe Keenan signed a two-year deal with Scottish Premier League club Hibernian.

Keenan trained with the Jets last month, and van Egmond had hoped the former Chelsea and Melbourne Victory wing-back would add some much-needed experience to a youthful squad, which is still trying to cover the loss of Stuart Musialik and Mark Bridge to Sydney FC and Andrew Durante to Wellington.

Instead, the championship-winning coach has gone back to the drawing board.

But time is quickly running out.

The pre-season cup starts in a week and the A-League season opener against the Mariners is just 35 days away.

"We want to get our squad here as soon as possible, but there are limitations on certain things," van Egmond said.

"We are up to about plan G, but the last thing we want to do is panic and bring in someone who is recommended but does not have the right quality. You have to do your due diligence correctly."

Van Egmond does not want a repeat of last season when he signed South American duo Jorge Drovandi and Denni off DVD footage. Drovandi was released before Christmas. Denni played out the season but was nowhere near the calibre of Nick Carle, the player he was signed to replace.

"That is why we are erring on the side of caution," van Egmond said.

"I think we have enough quality in the camp right at this moment to be be very competitive. Will we be more competitive with the extra players? Of course we will.

"By the same token, we are not going to sign someone willy-nilly.

"There are a number of players we are looking at.

"We want to ensure that what we are being told is correct. With the aid of the internet, you can check on that quite readily. To get statistics is good.

"The other thing is getting footage of players which is current footage. That ensures the integrity of the players we are bringing to the club."

Keenan adds to a growing list of recruits the Jets have failed to snare for one reason or another.

Ryan Griffiths the third Griffiths brother, who is playing in China and former Serie A midfielder Mattia Biso were out of the reach of their budget.

Ahmad Elrich (Mariners), Andre Gumprecht (Mariners), Ruben Zadkovich (Derby County) and Nathan Burns (AEK Athens) headed elsewhere.

Adrian Madaschi opted to stay in Italy and Ljubo Milicevic requires knee surgery and is yet to determine his future.

Italian triallists Valerio Mastrelli and Simone Bracalello, whom the Jets brought out to Australia, were not up to scratch and were sent home.

The Jets' only major addition has been former Australian Joeys (under-17) captain Kaz Patafta.

Working against the Jets is owner Con Constantine's refusal to use service agreements, which allows private sponsors to contribute a maximum of $450,000 outside the $1.9 million salary cap.

"We know there are certain limitations on a financial basis," van Egmond said.

"We know that, and that is fine.

"We know exactly where we stand and we have to utilise those dollars as best we can."

Even still, the Jets have room to move under the cap.

Signing a striker remains a priority, but van Egmond is also on the hunt for a wide player and another central defender.

Cameroon under-23 representative Severin Brice Bikoko is top of the shopping list but is awaiting a visa to be processed before he can come out for a trial.

The African is also the target of Serie B clubs.

Van Egmond was disappointed but not surprised Keenan had stayed in Scotland.

"It is no great shock if you look at the Scottish Premier League and amount of money they pay," van Egmond said.

"He is also a lot more accessible in the shop window there. Here we are more geographically isolated."

In the meantime, the Jets continue preparations for the season with a trial against the Mariners at Canberra Stadium today.

The match will be the first hit-out for striker Joel Griffiths.

"Like everyone, I just want Joel to get some match fitness," van Egmond said.

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