Jets sign Abbas, Victory cool on Viduka
Newcastle Jets have signed Iraqi midfielder Ali Abbas for the remainder of the A-League season as an injury replacement for defender Shaun Ontong.
Abbas, who previously played for Al Talaba and Al Quwa Al Jawlya in his homeland, joins from New South Wales Premier League outfit Marconi Stallions and will offer the sixth-placed Jets a much-needed attacking threat ahead of Sunday's trip to second-placed Sydney after impressing on a two-day trial. The 23-year-old was a member of the Iraq squad that sensationally won the AFC Asian Cup two years ago before seeking asylum in Australia after playing for Iraq in an Olympic Games qualifier against Australia in Gosford later in 2007.
"We are very pleased and proud to have Ali on board as a part of our club as the team embarks on the remainder of the season," said Jets chief executive John Tsatsimas. "No doubt he will bring a great degree of verve and vitality to the side, and we have no doubts that he will continue to develop on the potential that he has shown with the Iraqi national team, and with Marconi, during his time in the Hunter.
"Ali has been trialling here for the past few days and Branko Culina and his coaching staff were determined to have him as part of the squad moving forward. We obviously have a huge match against one of our main rivals in Sydney FC this weekend, so Ali's signing comes at a wonderful time for us and we wish he and the team all the very best heading into the big game."
Former Adelaide full-back Ontong suffered a torn Achilles 31 minutes into his first start for the Jets against Gold Coast United at the end of August which has ruled the 22-year-old out for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick insists a move for free agent Mark Viduka remains "extremely remote" despite reports linking the striker with the A-League champions. With Melbourne-born Viduka set to return to Australia after failing to find a club in England following his release from Newcastle, Victory chairman Geoff Lord confirmed he had been in contact with the former Celtic and Middlesbrough player - with a stint as a guest player believed to be one of the options being explored.
Victory captain Kevin Muscat yesterday urged Melbourne to revive the career of his former Australia team-mate, a move which would ease the club's attacking problems following the departure of Danny Allsopp to Qatar. However, with A-League clubs operating under salary-cap restrictions and striker Archie Thompson signed up as Melbourne's marquee player, Merrick has poured water on any move.
"I would really like to set the record straight on Mark Viduka," he said. "Firstly, Mark has never said that he will play football in Australia and we have not said anything other than the same as any other A-League team would say - that he would be a great player to have in our team.
"Having said that, the opportunity to have Mark Viduka in our side is extremely remote given that we have a salary cap and given that we have a marquee player. Archie Thompson is committed to 2011. He is playing some of his best football. He has scored three goals in the last four games, so we are pretty happy where we are at.
"The rest is all media speculation. We don't comment on transfers and contracts. We are happy with the side we have got and Archie has been tremendous for us and will continue to be."
Merrick did not rule out a possible guest role for Viduka, who turns 34 next month. "It's never really been a policy. We have never felt the need to have someone in the short term," he added. "If the need arose and the finances arose and the situation arose, then I think we would look at it the same as everyone else."