SITTING OUT: Ben Kantarovski at a Jets team photo shoot yesterday. Picture: Ryan OslandTHE Newcastle Jets are set to kick off their A-League campaign with a makeshift midfield as former wonder boy Ben Kantarovski faces another comeback from knee surgery.
Kantarovski had an arthroscopy on his troublesome right knee on Friday and is expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks.
It was the third time the 22-year-old has gone under the knife since reconstructive surgery in December 2010 after he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament.
Kantarovski’s latest setback follows groin surgery to midfielder Billy Celeski last week.
Their injuries combined with the departure of Ruben Zadkovich (Perth), Josh Brillante (Fiorentina) and Zenon Caravella (retirement), and the failure to secure Erik Paartalu, has left the Jets’ midfield stocks threadbare.
Former Leicester City youth team captain Robert Paratore began a one-week trial yesterday.
If signed, the 19-year-old Australian is considered more a project player.
Taylor Regan and Jacob Pepper, who began their careers in the centre of the park but have played predominantly defensive roles in recent seasons, started in midfield in the scoreless draw against Central Coast Mariners in Mudgee on Saturday.
New teenage arrival Allan Welsh has also spent time in midfield.
‘‘They are the only three we have available. That is the reality of it,’’ Stubbins said.
The Jets take on the Young Socceroos behind closed doors in Gosford on Saturday in their final hit-out before opening the season with an F3 derby against the old foe at the same venue on October 11.
‘‘Against the Young Socceroos it will be as near as possible to the starting XI for the first game,’’ Stubbins said.
‘‘We will work very hard leading up to the Young Socceroos game and try and get a bit more fluency into how we want to play.’’
Kantarovski has been hindered by the knee for a large part of the pre-season.
He played limited time at the Townsville Cup, which included losses to Brisbane (4-0) and Sydney FC (4-2) and a 3-1 win over North Queensland All Stars, and was sent off after 55 minutes for a second bookable offence in a 2-1 win over Wellington 10 days ago.
SETBACK: Kantarovski surgery leaves midfield exposed.
Friday’s operation follows a similar procedure to remove scartissue in January which put him out for six weeks.
In November 2012, the former Young Socceroos captain had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
He was expected to be out for six weeks but missed the entire season.
Stubbins is confident there will be no hiccups this time.
‘‘The surgery has been a success going by the medical reports,’’ Stubbins said.
‘‘He will be out for three or four weeks.
‘‘It has been a problematic situation with his knee.
CHANCE: Triallist Robert Paratore at Jets training yesterday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
‘‘He had a bit of floating tissue in there.
‘‘I’m a glass-half-full type of guy. He has had his little clearout and normally that is sufficient. Hopefully he comes back bigger and stronger.’’
Argentinian striker Jeronimo Neumann and former Socceroo David Carney were on light duties yesterday but are likely to start against the Young Socceroos.
Paratore will also get an opportunity, most likely from the bench, on Saturday.
‘‘It’s vital that we have a look at the kid and give him the shop window to show us what his capabilities are,’’ Stubbins said.
The teenage holding midfielder was recommended to the Jets by former Socceroo Vinnie Grella and trained with the squad for the first time yesterday.
‘‘He seems pretty comfortable in possession of the ball, his passing range is quite good, a little bit nervous at the start, which is to be expected, but he has come in and not looked out of place,’’ Stubbins said.
‘‘Vinnie played in that position and played at a very high level.
‘‘For him to recommend somebody; he has taken Josh Brillante to Fiorentina and he saw the traits in Josh.
‘‘Hopefully Rob portrays some traits Josh had but also some of his own.
‘‘Let’s see how he is at the end of the week and make a decision then.
‘‘Strategically we need to make the right decision.
‘‘Are we better off going for somebody who has experience there when we know we have Billy Celeski and Ben Kantarovski to come back?
‘‘Is it a younger guy we bring in who we think we can blood and move forward with in the future?’’