ALL TOGETHER NOW: From left, Francis Jeffers, Chris Payne, Labinot Haliti and Jobe Wheelhouse at Jets training at Ray Watt Oval yesterday. – Picture by Darren PatemanJETS coach Gary van Egmond has preferred young legs to experience by elevating Chris Payne into his squad for tomorrow’s showdown with Sydney FC ahead of English veteran Michael Bridges.
Payne, who joined Newcastle this season from now-defunct North Queensland, is yet to make his A-League debut for the Jets but has been in impressive touch in youth league, scoring nine goals in six games, including seven in his past three.
The 21-year-old was named yesterday in a provisional 16-man line-up, which van Egmond will reduce by one today.
There was no place for Bridges, 33, the former Sunderland, Leeds, Newcastle United and Bolton striker who retired at the end of last season but has made a comeback.
Bridges was an 84th-minute substitute in Newcastle’s 3-1 win against Melbourne Victory 13 days ago but has not played since.
Van Egmond believes Bridges has to gain more match fitness and has named him as an over-age player in today’s youth-league match against Sydney at Adamstown Oval.
‘‘He’ll play with the youth team on Friday, so he’ll get some game time there,’’ the coach said yesterday.
‘‘As we stated before, he’s come back and he’s doing well at training, so … hopefully [he plays] a good 60 minutes with the youth and then we’ll go from there.’’
Asked how long it would be before Bridges was an A-League option, van Egmond replied: ‘‘That depends on how he goes with the youth, once we see his effectiveness in those games.’’
Payne’s best chance of involvement tomorrow would appear to be as a substitute, as van Egmond has been tipped to use a starting strike force of Francis Jeffers, Ryan Griffiths and Jeremy Brockie.
That could leave Payne and Labinot Haliti competing for the same spot on the bench.
‘‘As you can see, young Chris Payne has been rewarded, coming into the squad because he’s been scoring regularly,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘It’s all about getting runs on the board. If you’re doing well with the younger ones, and you’re doing well at training, you deserve to be called in.
‘‘We’ve named 16 and if he’s in that 15, there’s every chance all three subs will get a guernsey.’’
Payne may have been biding his time in Newcastle but is no stranger to the A-League.
He made 19 appearances at Sydney FC, scoring three goals, and produced four in 21games for the Fury.
At the other end of the pitch, van Egmond said he would decide this morning whether to recall Ben Kennedy, who was concussed playing against Brisbane four weeks ago, allowing Matthew Nash to stake his claim for a regular berth.
‘‘We’ll leave it to the last training session,’’ he said.
‘‘Nashy was a little bit sore on Wednesday. He just twisted his knee a little bit.
‘‘We’ll just wait and see if he’s 100 per cent and make the determination on Friday.’’
Van Egmond said Kennedy’s form at training suggested he was eager to return.
‘‘He’s a lot better and has had a lot more training under his belt as well …’’