A-League: Newcastle Jets to move quickly on replacement for Roy O’Donovan

BODY BLOW: Newcastle Jets striker faces three months on the sideline with a groin injury. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

NEWCASTLE are deep in negotiations with two foreign players and coach Ernie Merrick says that anyone about to put a line though the Jets’ title hopes better think again.

Merrick says don’t write Jets off despite O’Donovan injury blow TweetFacebook Roy O’DonovanPictures: Sproule Sports Focus, AAP ImagesThe Jets suffered another major injury blow on Tuesday when scans confirmed that star striker Roy O’Donovan hasa grade-three tear in his groin and will be sidelined for three months.

The irrepressible Irishman, who is the league’s equal leading goal-scorer with seven, joins marquee midfielder Ronny Vargas on the long-term injury list.

The Venezuelan is “progressing well” in his rehabilitation from a broken and dislocated ankle but is not due back on deck until late March.

Jets management are well down the track in signing an injury replacement for the attacking midfielder and will now extend their recruitment to two players.

“We are getting close,” Jets football operations manager Joel Griffiths said. “Talks are advanced but until they sign and actually arrive here, it’s not done.”

Merrick confirmed that the Jets were working from a short-list of players that they had previously identified as potential replacements for Vargas.

“We have had a great run with signings this year and I expect that to continue,” Merrick said. “I am pretty positive that we will get a couple of high-quality players.”

Vargas has been out since round three. O’Donovan missed three games with a separate groin injury before returning and breaking down in the 2-1 win overPerth last round.Fellow senior players Wayne Brown (calf) and Daniel Georgievski (knee) have also been sidelined for extended periods.

The Jets, despite missing key men, sit in second place on 20 points after 10 rounds.

“There is no doubt that Roy will be a big loss,” Merrick said. “But even without Roy and Ronny, we have been collecting points and scoring goals. The boys are upbeat and positive. If anyone outside of this club wants to puta line through us,that is good for us. If I was them, I would think again.”

Socceroos striker Tim Cahill is yet to find a new home after departing Melbourne City last week but Merrick said the veteran was not on theirradar.

“Tim will probably go overseas,” Merrick said. “He is a very good player,not the type of player we want,but he is an excellent player and he won’t have any trouble finding a club. The players we are talking to are from overseas.”

Andrew Nabbout scored three goals in four games when switched to the point to cover for O’Donovan earlier in the campaign.He will again lead the line against Adelaide at homeon Saturday and Merrick said they may not sign a like-for-like replacement for O’Donovan.

“I will take any high-quality striker rather than identify specifically a No.9,” the coach said. “I think Andrew can play that role really well. If a No.9 becomes available, yes, we will have a look at him. If it is another type of attacking player that would be fine. Whether it is on the left or right side, high or as a No.10 they have to be goal-scorers. It is the quality that we are looking forrather than worrying about a position. What’s good about this team is that all four players up front know they have a responsibility to score goals. Because of that we are the top goal-scoring team in the league and we are always a threat of scoring goals even if we play badly.”

The Jets cannot sign players until the transfer window opens on January 3. They meet Adelaide and Wanderers at homeand are away to Sydney before then.

​“It would be ideal if the players arrived a week or so before the window opensso we can do some work with them,” Merrick said. “Then they will hit the ground running. In March we will have a fantastic set-up. We will have everyone back and if we get into the finals, which I’m pretty sure we will, we will have a really strong squad.”

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