Newcastle Jets boss Carl Robinson remained tight lipped over whether marquee signing Wes Hoolahan would make his long-awaited Hyundai A-League debut against Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
The Republic of Ireland international was named in the Jets’ match day squad on Thursday, having not played for the Hunter side since suffering a serious ankle injury in the FFA Cup Quarter Final clash against Adelaide in September 2019.
After Hoolahan missed first-team training on Friday to take fitness tests, Robinson insisted he was still awaiting medical clearance before sending the former English Premier League star out in the competition for the first time.
The Jets head coach had previously revealed that he hoped ‘the Irish Messi’ would make his Hyundai A-League bow this week at McDonald Jones Stadium, stating ‘he’s not far away.’ On Friday, Robinson doubled down on how excited he was to see Hoolahan in a Jets jersey.
“I’m super excited about it, as everyone else is.”
“Not just the staff, the players, the supporters,” Robinson said.
“Everyone wants to play. He’s come here to play. He’s had a very difficult few months, so as soon as he is available, will be as soon as you see him.”
SATURDAY PREVIEW: Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory
RECAP: Jets coach Robinson ‘itching’ to hand Hoolahan his debut
With Newcastle’s Finals Series hopes fading away fast, Robinson insists the pressure is off his players but they need to show him their long-term value.
“There’s no pressure on them to play,” he said.
“We’re using this last eight, nine games – we want to win as many games as we can because that’s what football is about.
“They are playing for their futures. I’m looking at three-year project here and how we can build.
“When you build success the hardest thing is to sustain success, it’s not a case of being successful one year and finish bottom the next – that’s not what I want to do.
“I want to be in a position of pushing for playoffs and titles year in, year out, because that’s what good teams all over the world do.”
Melbourne Victory boss Carlos Salvachua welcomes back Jakob Poulsen and Tim Hoogland, who were not registered for the AFC Asian Championship League, while the Spaniard he expects to have Leigh Broxham back in his line-up after a calf injury.
“I think that [Broxham] will start,” said Salvachua
“Our problem is that he was training in the week during Melbourne while we were in Seoul.
“He’s travelling, that’s the most important thing for us, for the group and for the club.”
Salvachua is also aware his players will have to deal with a huge disparity in temperature as they head to the Hunter in summer after arriving back from Korea Republic’s winter 72 hours ago, following the 1-0 loss against FC Seoul on Tuesday night.
He said: “Three days, there it’s six degrees below and now [it’s] 25 degrees – but they are professionals.”
Melbourne City v Brisbane Roar
Sunday, 1 March
Kick-off: 6.30pm AEDT
Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
Saturday, 29 February
McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 5pm AEDT