SAMBA MAGIC: Ernie Merrick and Brazilian Fred teamed up to win a championship at Melbourne Victory. Picture: Vince CaligiuriERNIE Merrick was responsible for unleashing Johnny Warren Medal-winner Carlos Hernandez and brilliant Brazilian Fred on the A-League and now he hopes to unearth another Latino excitement machine at the Newcastle Jets.
Merrick has two visa places to fill on the roster. The priority is a creative midfielder and the master mentor is using the same contacts that delivered Hernandez and Fred to Melbourne Victory.
“We have a short list of who we want” Merrick said.“If we don’t get the first one, we will get the second one, if not, the third. The top three that we have selected are all top quality players.”
Asked if the player would fit the marquee category, Merricksaid:“It will be someone of quality who we have to pay a little bit more too and it will be outside the cap.”
Merrick securedHernandez on loan fromCosta Rican club Alajueinse in 2007. The silky-skilled No.10 spent fours seasons at Victory, leading them to a championship in 2008-09 and winning the Johnny Warren Medal a year later.After a season in Indian, Hernandez reunited with Merrick at Wellington for the 2013-14 season.
Fred had one season under Merrick at Victory in 2006-07, and was instrumental in their championship success, highlighted by four assists in the grand final.
Merrick eyes Latino magic for marquee TweetFacebook Samba magic: Carlos Hernandez and FredPicture: Fairfax Photographers“I was luckywith Carlos Hernandez andI thought Fred was an outstanding player,” Merrick said. “I have had some success from South America.We can attract players now that 10 years ago we couldn’t attract. If you look at who we have recruited, we need a bit of icing on the cake, a little bit of silk.Whoever we sign, although they might be an attacking midfielder, they must be a goal scorer. That is what brings the crowd in.”
Merrick has been impressed with the opening 10 days of pre-season.
“The players are ahead of where I thought they would be and that is why we will start playing friendly matches from next week,” he said.
The Jets’first hit out will be against Weston at Bear Park next Tuesday, followed by friendlies againstBroadmeadow Magic (July 19) and Hamilton Olympic (August 2).
“We are looking forward to playing the local teams,” Merrick said.“It is so important to have a look at the quality of players around, meet the fans and link up with the clubs who are doing a great job developing junior players in this region.”
The Jets are set to be withoutLachlan Jackson, Nicholas Cowburn and Devante Clut fortwo of the friendlies after they were named in a 26-man Olyroos squad for the AFC under-23 championships in Myanmarlater thismonth.
The squad goes in to camp on Friday, with a final 23 departing for Myanmar on July 15.