Hoffman steps backward to go forward

NOVOCASTRIAN Melbourne Heart defender Jason Hoffman hopes his successful reinvention as a right fullback will lead to a new contract with the go-ahead A-League club.
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The 25-year-old, who is a foundation player for the Heart, is in advanced talks and is expected to re-sign shortly.

‘‘My manager has been in talks with the club and we’re pretty close to coming to an agreement and making it all official,’’ Hoffman told the Newcastle Herald.

‘‘Up until then I’m still concentrating week to week on playing good football. When the club is ready to finalise things they’ll make it official.’’

Given the little brother of A-League football in Melbourne is about to become the richest in the land after English Premier League giants Manchester City bought the Heart, Hoffman’s extension could be perfectly timed.

Manchester City are expected to deliver the Heart with the best off-field resources in the A-League, plus a star-studded roster.

‘‘I’ve had four years down there and there’s only a few of us that are remaining from the first season,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d love to stay here as they’re exciting times for the club.’’

Hoffman’s short-term focus is centred on extending the Heart’s revival to six straight wins over his former club, Newcastle Jets, today at Hunter Stadium.

The Mayfield United and Hamilton Olympic junior played 29 games for the Jets from 2007 to 2010, mostly as a striker or winger, but could never cement a position.

In four years at the Heart he has played 60 games, but not until this season’s move to right back has he become a regular fixture in the starting XI.

Former Heart coach John Aloisi first trialled Hoffman at right back late last season.

During the off-season Aloisi’s assistant and former Socceroos centre back Hayden Foxe worked hard to convert Hoffman into a defender.

‘‘I was pretty open to it,’’ Hoffman said. ‘‘I’d been used as a utility for most of my A-League career, so the chance to cement a spot regularly in the A-League was obviously very appealing and the chance to call one position home was what I always wanted.

‘‘I’ve always been open to something new, and being a fullback was certainly something exciting.

‘‘That was a challenge that I couldn’t wait for.’’

Aloisi’s replacement, John van ’t Schip, has continued to use Hoffman at right back and has encouraged him to follow his instincts and push high up the pitch.

Learning the defensive intricacies of his new role has been more challenging.

‘‘A lot of it was definitely my positioning. Once we get in a one-on-one situation, instincts can kick in, but if your positioning isn’t right and your knowledge of the position isn’t up to scratch, then you will get found out.

‘‘That was something I had to work on very hard.’’

Hunter Stadium holds plenty of special memories for Hoffman from his Jets days and many family and friends are expected to be in the stands this evening.

However, with just two points separating the eighth-placed Jets (26) and ninth-placed Heart (24) there will be no room for sentiment for Hoffman as the result is vital for both clubs’ finals hopes.

‘‘We’re expecting them to be at their best,’’ he said.

‘‘If Newcastle play like they have throughout the year, then we know it’s going to be very difficult for us.’’

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