Emile Heskey will not play against the Canberra All-Stars due to a lack of fitness. Photo: Ryan Osland
Capital Football says it is disappointed former England international Emile Heskey has not made the trip to Canberra, but doesn't hold a grudge against the Newcastle Jets for resting their marquee man.
Heskey is a couple of weeks away from returning to the field and is a notable absentee from Wednesday night's pre-season match with the Canberra National Premier League All-Stars at McKellar Park.
The 35-year-old made a big impression in his first A-League season last year, showing glimpses of the form that made him a great striker during his prime.
Capital Football used images of Heskey in promotional material after being initially told the Jets intended to send their best available squad for the game.
Heskey, new signing Nathan Burns and former Leeds attacker Michael Bridges have all stayed in Newcastle, but Capital Football chief executive Heather Reid said their withdrawals would not detract from the game's importance.
''It's extremely disappointing to have a player of the calibre of Emile Heskey pull out, but that decision is entirely up to the Newcastle Jets,'' Reid said.
''Their priority is to have players fit and ready for the A-League, and we understand that.
''I'm sure some people won't come because they wanted to see Heskey in the flesh, but that's something out of our control.''
In his prime Heskey was one of England's best strikers, earning 62 caps and playing at two World Cups in 2002 and 2010.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond said it made sense to ease him back into action as he only returned to training in Newcastle on Friday.
''He's not ready to play,'' van Egmond said. ''We've got another break after this week, he'll be working through that break, and he'll be a lot more prepared to get a lot more minutes into him after that.''
Injured players James Brown (ankle), Josh Mitchell (knee), Mitch Cooper (knee) and Connor Chapman (calf) will also sit out Wednesday night's match.
It's the second straight year the Jets have faced a composite Canberra team after they easily accounted for an ACT Rockets side last year. But despite only having one training session as a group, and with original squad members Tim Stewart, Nathan Evans and Regan Walsh ruled out through injury, Canberra NPL All-Stars coach Warren Grieve expected a more competitive showing this time. ''It's a chance to put our boys in the shop window,'' Grieve said.
''Our goal is to be competitive, to ensure A-League clubs know they can expect to get decent games when they come to Canberra.''
The Jets only have a three-day break before they host the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.
Friendly: Newcastle Jets v Canberra NPL All Stars at McKellar Park on Wednesday, 7pm. Tickets at the gate.