LUKA Prso was recruited by the Newcastle Jets with a view to the future and filling the enormous shoes of Western Sydney-bound midfielder Steve Ugarkovic.
On Sunday, Prso, with just 22 minutes in the A-League under his belt, is likely to partner Ugarkovic in a rejigged midfield for the clash against Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium.
In-form No.10 Ramy Najjarine is not permitted to play against his old club, due to a league-wide stipulation for players on loan.
Ali Abbas would normally be the next in line, but the Iraqi international is on the comeback from a hamstring injury. Kosta Petratos has also filled the role but is more adept up front.
The most likely scenario is for Angus Thurgate to push forward with Prso replacing Najjarine as he did late in the 1-all draw with Western Sydney last Friday.
Elevation to the starting side would continue a meteoric rise for the 20-year-old who joined the Jets on loan two weeks ago and has played little senior football.
Jets football manager Joel Griffiths has no doubts that Prso would be up to the task of starting if required.
"I definitely think he would handle starting," he said. "The signs are good. He is a great kid and is sure about his ability. He is not content just to make up the numbers."
In Prso's cameo against Wanderers, as well as winning a match-equalising penalty, he completed 17 passes without error and won two fouls.
"It looked like a young boy wanting to get on the ball and not really caring so much about making mistakes in the front third," Griffiths said. "He has definitely been a breath of fresh air. I thought he would struggle conditioning-wise but he was getting up and down the field like he has been with us all season, not having just spent 14 days in quarantine."
Jets captain Nigel Boogaard was also impressed with Prso's energy and maturity.
"He wanted to get on the ball, he wanted to create things," Boogaard said. "His match smarts played a big part in the penalty. A lot of kids who grew up playing football in this country would have stayed on their feet when they got contact in the box.
"It is a matter of what the coaching staff want to do. If he gets an given an opportunity to play, we are confident he can do a job for us."
Ugarkovic, 26, is closing in on 100 straight starting appearances for the Jets, but will head to Western Sydney next season.
Young Socceroos coach and Jets 2008 championship-winning boss Gary Van Egmond believes Prso has the potential to have an even greater impact than the man he will replace.
"Once it was clear that Steve was going next year, we started looking around," Griffgiths said. "Luka's name was given to me. Dutchy (Van Egmond) coached him in the Young Socceroos and said he had the ingredients to develop into and even better player than Steve. Luka is obviously on loan [from Croatian club Osijek] and we will see how he goes."
And a copy paste:
IN OTHER NEWS: