THE intimidating task of shutting down Jets marquee man Emile Heskey has been given to a Novocastrian.
Newcastle-born Adelaide United defender Nigel Boogaard is expected to mark Heskey’s every move when the former England striker makes his A-League debut against the Reds at Hunter Stadium tomorrow.
The arrival of the imposing Jets No.9, along with that of Italian maestro Alessandro Del Piero at Sydney FC and Shinji Ono at new club Western Sydney Wanderers, has created unprecedented hype about the season.
‘‘It is great having these types of players come to our country, and to have the ability to put yourself up against them and try to compete with these guys,’’ Boogaard told the Herald.
‘‘It should be a great challenge.’’
Boogaard, a Dudley Redhead junior who came through the youth system at Newcastle United, is no stranger to marking big names, having previously lined up opposite Heskey contemporaries Dwight Yorke and Robbie Fowler.
‘‘It is always good to say you have played against them, especially the ones who have been around awhile and been at the top,’’ Boogaard said.
‘‘It’s pretty cool.’’
Although boasting equally impressive resumes, Yorke and Fowler had not come off a near-
full season in the English Premier League and do not share
Heskey’s physical attributes.
‘‘He is going to be a handful,’’ Boogaard said.
‘‘Physically it is going to be a challenge. From all reports he is looking well.
‘‘My approach doesn’t really change.
‘‘It depends on the way the game is being played, and if they are going short to feet or looking for the ball high.
‘‘Guys of that strength, you don’t want to get in a physical contest with them when you are wrestling for the ball.
‘‘If he doesn’t know where I am, and I can come and steal the ball from either side of him, that is more realistic.
‘‘I know he will definitely be a handful in the box and crosses are going to come in. We will have to be on our toes.’’
Boogaard was suspended for the Reds’ 3-2 loss in extra time to Bunyodkor in the quarter-final of the Asian Champions League in Tashkent on Wednesday night.
He stayed in Adelaide and will be one of only a few with fresh legs tomorrow.
But who he partners in the heart of defence remains unclear.
Fellow centre-back Iain Fyfe was sent off in extra time against Bunyodkor and under Asian Football Confederation regulations he and striker Fabian Barbiero, who was also issued a red card, will serve their one game suspension tomorrow.
At 188 centimetres and nearly 90 kilograms, Boogaard has a similar frame to Heskey.
‘‘The only one, if anyone, you could compare him to is Sergio van Dijk,’’ Boogaard said of the current A-League strikers. ‘‘Obviously he [Heskey] has been in the game a long time and played at the highest level, but in terms of style they are similar.’’
Jon McKain, who came in for Boogaard, missed a large chunk of the preseason and had been in doubt for the ACL match with a leg injury, and is unlikely to back-up. Osama Malik is the likely cover.
Tarek Elrich scored the winner in a 1-0 victory for the Jets over Adelaide in their last encounter in round 21 of the 2011-12 campaign at Hunter Stadium.
Ryan Griffiths, Ben Kantarovski and Ruben Zadkovich are the only Jets from that match expected to start tomorrow.
It will be a more familiar looking Reds outfit. Adelaide were one of the major disappointments of last season, finishing only in front of the now-defunct Gold Coast United.
‘‘Last season wasn’t great and the [Asian] Champions League gave us a chance to prove we were a better team than we showed,’’ Boogaard said.
‘‘We have had a good pre-season, and with a couple of Champions League games under our belt, no-one is looking back on last season now.’’
‘‘The biggest thing for us this year is that Kossie [coach John Kosmina] is going to have a headache to pick his strongest 11 each week.
‘‘We have healthy competition across the whole squad now, which maybe we didn’t have last year.’’
The Jets trained behind closed doors yesterday and were not available to speak to the Herald.
Newcastle-born Adelaide United defender Nigel Boogaard (L) with Dario Vidosic. Picture: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images