Newcastle’s Ronald Vargas is being urged to speed up his training level to get back on the field.Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick intends having a chat with recovering playmaker Ronnie Vargas about lifting his training level, as he targets a mid-march A-League return for the Venezuelan international.
Vargas shone in the Jets first three games before he suffered a horrific ankle injury in late October.
Merrick is looking at Vargas returning in mid-March after a bye week.
“That would give him another four of five games opportunity running into the finals, which would be ideal, he just has to step up his training,” Merrick said on Monday.
“Ronnie is training hard, but not hard enough, he and I are going to have to have a little chat about that, but he’s feeling good as well.
“I’d just like him to increase his level of training to get back sooner, because he would be quite special to use in the finals.”
Argentinian winger Pato Rodriguez, who was drafted in as an injury replacement for former AEK Athens teammate Vargas, has pulled up with a calf issue after last week and has gone for a scan.
Merrick said defender Ivan Vujica was training well after missing last week’s game with illness, but Ben Kantarovski was likely to be given one more week to recover from a hamstring injury.
“I think Ben could play this week, but knowing where we’re at and going into the finals, I think I’d rather save him for one more week,” Merrick said.
An away win over seventh-placed Brisbane Roar next Saturday would guarantee Newcastle a finals spot for the first time in eight years, not that Merrick has been worried about missing out on a top-six spot.
“I’ve said that we’ll be in the finals, the position we finish in in the finals I haven’t talked about,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that if we’re in the top four we’ll have a better chance of doing well in the finals.”
Merrick said Sydney, who lead the second-placed Jets by 11 points, had already sewn up the race for the Premiers Plate.