Steven Ugarkovic can be Newcastle’s next Riley McGree

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Ernie Merrick made a startling comparison following their surprise 1-0 win over Western United on Saturday, saying that Steven Ugarkovic could be the club’s next Riley McGree after another diligent and industrious performance.

Having joined the Newcastle Jets in 2015/16 after four seasons in the Croatian top division, the 25-year-old has developed into one of the A-League’s constant midfielders.

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His partnership with Ben Kantarovski has been the Jets’ strength so far this season and it paid dividends in Geelong as Newcastle’s frustrating start to the season would have continued if not for Ugarkovic’s versatility and intelligence on and off the ball.

With the ability to play in multiple positions in the midfield and defensive lines, no other Newcastle player has demonstrated such versatility while trying to create cohesion amid bungling and indulgent teammates in possession.

But according to Merrick, it could actually be his disciplined defensive role that often results in breaking up attacks rather than forming his own that could be holding him back.

“He’s doing phenomenally well, and I think he’d be a well-rounded player if he scored,” said Merrick.

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He is one of these players that are not sure when to shoot or not too and he’d rather give it to someone else.”

Case in point: in seven years of professional football Ugarkovic has scored only six career goals. Whether it is confidence or lack thereof, Ugarkovic struggles to make key moments in front of the goal from himself though he has no issues creating them for others.

“He set up a strike last week for Jason Hoffman when we played against Perth but I’d like to see him have a go for himself,” said Merrick.

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Despite the fluidity in attacking, Ugarkovic has been a key piece in forming and setting up goal opportunities for the Jets.

According to Merrick if Ugarkovic could drive the ball forward with explosive results Newcastle would struggle to hold onto him.

“If he could score I think he could be then next Riley McGree, just with less scorpions,” said Merrick.

“I think we’d have trouble keeping him.”

Feature Image Credit: Newcastle Jets

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Suzanna Telai
Suzanna Telai
Football enthusiast and student journalist, covering Western United for the 2019/20 A-League season

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