HIGH FLYER: Josh Brillante.JETS coach Clayton Zane has no doubts that Josh Brillante will develop into a leader in the middle of the park, most likely at an overseas club.
But for now Brillante is of most value to the Jets at right fullback.
The 20-year-old will line up on the flank for a fifth straight game against Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium in Parramatta tomorrow.
‘‘The loss of Scott Neville [to a season-ending knee injury] has hurt us a lot more than anticipated,’’ Zane said.
‘‘We didn’t want to get to the situation where we had to revert to midfielders playing at right back, but he has done a great job since coming in there.
‘‘We know away from home we are going to get a very solid defender, but he also gives us a little bit going forward as well. ‘‘In the future I can see him being an inspirational leader in the middle of the park.
‘‘But he needs to do a job for the team now, and he has done it so far.’’
After joining Newcastle from the Gold Coast, Brillante made his debut for the Jets at right back last season.
He makes no secret of his preference for playing in midfield but is content to fill whatever role is required.
‘‘When I first came to the club I played a lot of right back,’’ he said. ‘‘They are obviously very different roles, especially defence-wise.
‘‘I see myself as a midfielder. I grew up playing in midfield and enjoy that position the most. For now, it’s whatever is best for the team.’’
A fringe player in his maiden season at the Jets, Brillante grabbed the spotlight after a breakout campaign for the Young Socceroos at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in June.
His efforts in midfield were highlighted by a wonder strike against El Salvador. The goal, and his all-round performance, attracted attention from European clubs headed by Everton, Schalke and Lazio.
Managed by former Socceroos midfielder Vince Grella, Brillante has another year to run on his contract at the Jets but has aspirations of playing in Europe.
‘‘His mentality can’t be faulted,’’ Zane said. ‘‘He is the first to training every morning and quite often the last to leave.
‘‘He has the look about him of a kid who has one thing on his mind – to play in a bigger league abroad.
‘‘He knows the only way to do that is through persistent performances for Newcastle.’’
Brillante can’t help but smile when the El Salvador goal is mentioned, but he is yet to score a goal in the A-League.
‘‘To score a goal like that gave me a lot of confidence,’’ he said. ‘‘Even at right back, I have been having a lot of shots. Hopefully I get a bit of luck and put one in the back of the net.
‘‘Wanderers are very good in transition. As a fullback you want to get forward, but your first role is as a defender.’’
The Jets came from 2-1 down to grab a late equaliser in their last encounter with the Wanderers at Hunter Stadium four weeks ago.
Since then they have gone down to Phoenix 3-2 at home, upset Brisbane 1-0 away and lost to Sydney 2-0 (home) to slip to eighth place on 23 points, four outside the six.
It’s not do or die, but Zane said it was vital that the Jets ‘‘stay in contact with the rest of the pack’’.
‘‘There are still enough games to potentially finish in the top four,’’ Zane said. ‘‘Our thinking is that we can’t fall too far away from the pack.
‘‘We need to give ourselves every chance coming into the last three or four matches.’’
Kew Jaliens returns from suspension and Joel Griffiths is set to start his first game.
‘‘We are looking at a little more thrust going forward,’’ Zane said. ‘‘Wanderers try and control teams without the ball a lot more. We want people in the front third to take a little bit more initiative and take chances higher up the pitch.
‘‘There will be a lot of moments in the match where they want us to have the ball.
‘‘I don’t want players to shy away from a slower build-up. They just need to be able to read the game, when to quicken the tempo, when to be a bit more direct with Emile [Heskey], and choose their moment in the final third to take initiative.’’
Wanderers are lining up for a third game in nine days. They won 2-0 in Perth 2-0 last week before a demoralising 3-1 loss to Ulsan in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.