A DAY after securing the services of Ryan Griffiths for another two years, the Newcastle Jets are poised to sign one of the hottest young strikers in the country – Perth Glory teenager Adam Taggart.
Taggart, 18, has been stuck behind Glory veterans Shane Smeltz and Billy Mehmet, who are contracted beyond this season, and is desperate for first-team football.
Despite having featured just four times for Glory this campaign, he was selected in the Olyroos squad ahead of A-League regulars Ben Halloran (Gold Coast), Bernie Ibini (Central Coast) and Eli Babalj (Melbourne Heart) for the recent qualifiers against Uzbekistan and United Arab Emirates.
Taggart spent a year under van Egmond at the Australian Institute of Sport in 2009-10 and has a strong relationship with Jets youth team coach Arthur Papas, who was at the AIS alongside van Egmond.
Blessed with lightning speed, the Western Australia product is suited to the high-tempo possession-based pressing game that van Egmond has implemented at the Jets.
The Jets remained tight-lipped yesterday but the Newcastle Herald understands a deal is almost done.
Taggart’s manager, Zjelko Susa, confirmed Newcastle was one of a number clubs Taggart was considering.
‘‘We have had talks with Newcastle and other clubs including Perth Glory, but nothing is official yet,’’ Susa said.
Taggart’s last appearance for the Glory was 12 minutes off the bench in a 1-all draw with Sydney on January 18.
But the imminent departure of Glory attacker Mile Sterjovski to Chinese Super League club Dalian Aerbin should create a greater opportunity for the youngster in the final stage of the season.
The Jets have places to fill in their attacking arsenal for next season. They have signed Gold Coast attacking midfielder James Brown and have Marko Jesic and James Virgili on their books.
Chris Payne was released mid-season and Jeremy Brockie, Labinot Haliti and English veterans Francis Jeffers and Michael Bridges are yet to be re-signed.
The Jets have turned down a lucrative offer from Chinese club Liaoning Whowin for Brockie, who will play for New Zealand against Jamaica in a friendly in Auckland tonight.
The Chinese transfer window closes on March 2, meaning Brockie would have missed the final two months of the A-League season.
The cashed-strapped Central Coast Mariners yesterday released Rostyn Griffiths to Guangzhou Evergrande for an $800,000 transfer fee.
The Glory are also expected to pocket a significant fee for Sterjovski.
The Jets have offered Brockie an upgraded contract for beyond this season, but it pales against the riches on offer in China, believed to be more than $400,000 a season.
Jets chief executive Robbie Middleby said the decision to block the move was difficult but necessary.
‘‘We don’t want to stand in the way of players going overseas, but he is our leading goal scorer, and to let him go five weeks out from the finals – we can’t do that,’’ Middleby said.
‘‘We owe it to our 10,000 members to strive for that top six and he is a big part of that.’’
The next Chinese transfer window does not open until June.
Brockie returns from New Zealand tomorrow and is expected to start up front against the Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
Jets captain Jobe Wheelhouse said the retention of Griffiths was a sign the club had learnt from its mistake in previous years before Hunter Sports Group took over the ownership.
‘‘Ryan has scored eight goals for us this year, has been an integral part of the team and it was good to see the club has rewarded him,’’ Wheelhouse said.
‘‘It was the same situation with Nikolai [Topor-Stanley] last season.
‘‘They have extended Taylor Regan’s contract, as well young Peps [Jacob Pepper].
‘‘That is the way it should be and hopefully that continues.’’
Wheelhouse hoped Griffiths’s extension would provide a lift for the whole team.
‘‘It is a step in the right direction,’’ he said.
‘‘His situation is settled now. It was obviously up in the air for a couple of weeks.
‘‘Hopefully he steps his game up to another level because we need it.’’
The luckless skipper has recovered from a groin injury and is expected to return to the starting side against the Victory, most likely for rookie Pepper who has shouldered an enormous workload in recent weeks.
‘‘You need to find a way to fit your most valuable players in and Jobe, in the past couple of months, has shown he is one of those,’’ assistant coach Craig Deans said.