HEADING HOME: Jets midfielder Steven Ugarkovic playing against UAE in the Olyroos’ Asian championship opener last week. Picture: Getty ImagesJETS signing Steven Ugarkovic is poised to make his A-League debut off the bench against Perth Glory on Sunday after his Olyroos team were knocked out of the Olympic qualifiers on Thursday morning in Qatar.
The 21-year-old midfielder is expected to arrive in Newcastle on Friday or Saturday and be named in the Jets’18-man preliminary squad.
Ugarkovic, a former Croatia under-19 representative fromSydney, has been playing in Croatia at second-division club Gorica on loan from top-tier Osijek.
The Jets are missing the suspended Ben Kantarovski on Sunday but have midfield back-up in Cameron Watson and Nick Cowburn.Ugarkovic is unlikely to start, but coach Scott Miller rates the youngster highly.
Steven Ugarkovic playing in CroatiaJets defender Jason Hoffman said on Thursday that he knew a little about Ugarkovic from former Olyroos teammates.
“You hear them talk about him, and they’ve said he’s a good footballer, and he’s in the Olyroos squad, which is a great achievement,” Hoffman said.
“I am sure he’s got the quality and footballing talent we need here at the Jets. Hopefully he can return from that and be fit and ready to make an impact for us.”
Ugarkovicstarted the Olyroos’ first game at the Asian under-23 championship, a 1-0 loss tothe UAEin which he was substituted in the 64thminute for Mustafa Amini.
He did not feature in the following game, a 2-0 win over Vietnam, nor in the goalless draw against Group D runners-up Jordan on Thursdaymorning, which left Australia in third place.
Hoffman was involved in the Olyroos’unsuccessful qualifying campaign for London 2012 and knows what his new teammate will be going through.
“To miss out on the Olympics was shattering,” Hoffman said.“That’s your one chance to go to the Olympics, really, unless you go as an over-age player.
“It’s extremely disappointing, but as long as Steven has learnt while he’s had his time in the national team and come back a better player for the Jets, then hopefully he can hit theground running here.”
Hoffman expects influential Serbian midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic to return from a hamstring injury for Perth, joining returned striker Andy Keogh in a revitalised attacking line-up for the visitors.
The Jets are throwing open the gates to children for free on Sunday.