Monday, 6 January 2014 7:42 AM
Melbourne Heart interim coach John van’t Schip has praised Harry Kewell after his side played out a 0-0 draw against reigning A-League title-holders the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Sunday.
Van’t Schip took charge of the club after John Aloisi’s well documented dismissal and the 50 year-old’s first match in charge showed signs of promise for a squad that hasn’t won in 18 consecutive matches and is now winless in 20 games away from home.
35 year-old Kewell, still searching for match fitness and form which warrants a plane ticket to this year’s World Cup in Brazil, was arguably the man of the match in what was an otherwise lacklustre fixture.
The former Liverpool and Leeds star’s combination with Maltese international Michael Mifsud proved troublesome for the Mariners and van’t Schip didn’t shy away from praising the club’s biggest signing.
“Harry Kewell today playing ninety minutes on a very good level I think was an example for the boys,” van Schip said.
“He was working hard and (was) dangerous in a few circumstances.”
Van’t Schip was optimistic the performance against the Mariners could mean further improvement in coming weeks having only had his first training session with the side on Friday.
“I think they performed very well, in the first half I think we dominated and had some good chances with Mifsud twice close to opening the score… We controlled the game,” he said.
“The second half we had some opportunities and some corners so overall I think the draw was a score we could live with.
“I’m more pleased with the energy, with the way of playing and that gives us a lot of hope for more improvement.”
The inaugural Heart coach noted the pending return of a fellow Dutchman as potentially influential to the side.
“Orlando Engelaar is coming back from injury and hopefully he can be involved in the team in one or two weeks so that will make us as a team stronger and we have to take it from there.”
Despite the opening of the transfer window van’t Schip confirmed the club doesn’t have the capacity to bring in any new players due to a full squad and will not be rushed into elevating youth team squad members to the first team just for the sake of their development.
However the 50 year-old Dutchman admitted he is keeping an eye on some Foxtel National Youth League players.
“In December I have seen some games and there are a few players who are close such as (David) Vrankovic and (Benjamin) Garuccio,” said van’t Schip.
“They are two players that have been training with us (the top side) for a long time and also Stefan Mauk today he got a few minutes on the pitch to show his abilities.
“We will have a close look on every player, and youth players, but they have to deserve to play.
“It’s not that because I like young players that I am going to put them in.”
Noting the example of defender Curtis Good, now at English side Newcastle United, who earned his spot because he was “better than the players that we had (in his position.)”
The Heart face a short turn-around with a trip to Perth to play the Glory on Friday evening.