Adam Taggart goes from Jets bench to Socceroos 

HE has been unable to nail down a starting position with the Jets, but Adam Taggart was the sole Newcastle player named yesterday in a provisional Socceroos squad for the East Asian Cup 2013 qualifying tournament in Hong Kong next month.
Nanjing Night Net

The 19-year-old striker was a surprise selection in Australian coach Holger Osieck’s 25-man roster, which will congregate for a training camp in Sydney next week before being reduced to 20 for the December 1 to 9 tournament.

Taggart joined Newcastle this season from Perth Glory after signing a two-year contract.

He started up front alongside marquee man Emile Heskey in the season-opening 2-0 loss to Adelaide, playing 58 minutes.

But he was dropped for the round-two win against Sydney and has since been deployed for cameo stints as substitute in three games.

He also missed two club games while representing the Young Socceroos at the recent Asian Football Confederation under-19 championship in the United Arab Emirates.

After playing the final 31 minutes of Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Wellington, Taggart has been declared unavailable for tomorrow’s clash with Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park because of personal reasons.

If Taggart is included in Osieck’s final squad, he will also miss Newcastle’s games against Brisbane (December 1) and the Central Coast (December 8).

While Taggart is yet to set the A-League ablaze in a 14-game career which has yielded just one goal, his promise was noted by Osieck at a ‘‘Potential Socceroos’’ training camp in October last year.

The 183-centimetre youngster then played a key role in helping Australia’s under 20s qualify for their World Cup, playing in four games during their AFC campaign, and Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon is understood to have recommended him to Osieck.

Taggart said yesterday that his inclusion in Osieck’s second-string squad, which is dominated by A-League players and overseas-based players who are out of competition, had come out of the blue.

“It came as a surprise to me, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and look forward to the experience,” he said.

Jets coach Gary van Egmond said Taggart’s selection was ‘‘a real testament to the way he is developing’’.

“There is no doubt Adam will benefit from the experience of being in the squad,” he said.

Because the tournament is being played outside official FIFA match dates, Osieck’s selection options were limited, but his squad still features regulars Brett Emerton, Matt McKay and Archie Thompson.

The Socceroos will assemble in Sydney for a pre-tournament camp from Monday and will leave for Hong Kong next Friday.

Van Egmond yesterday named a 19-man squad for the trip to Melbourne, bolstered by the return of Craig Goodwin (shin) and Dominik Ritter (quadriceps) from injuries and Taylor Regan and Jacob Pepper from suspension.

The coach predicted a selection shake-up after the lacklustre showing against Wellington, but other than the likely return of Goodwin and Ritter it remains to be seen if any changes will be made.

Australia’s provisional squad is: Terry Antonis, Eli Babalj, Aziz Behich, Robert Cornthwaite, Dino Djulbic, Ivan Franjic, Brett Emerton, Eugene Galekovic, Richard Garcia, Rostyn Griffiths, Ben Halloran, Scott Jamieson, Osama Malik, Michael Marrone, Matt McKay, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Mat Ryan, Matt Smith, Adam Taggart, Archie Thompson, Michael Thwaite, Dario Vidosic, Luke Wilkshire.

● The Jets have signed former Perth Glory goalkeeper Aleks Vrteski on an injury waiver while Ben Kennedy (knee) and Mark Birighitti (cheekbone) are unavailable.

The 24-year-old played 13 A-League games for Perth and arrived in Newcastle yesterday after playing with Persija Jakarta in the Indonesian Premier League last season.

Adam Taggart.