Francis Jeffers has come a long way since his Everton debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford as a 16-year-old.
It was Boxing Day 1997 and five years before another 16-year-old, Wayne Rooney, burst on to the scene for the Toffees with a goal on debut against Arsenal.
While Rooney has gone on to star for United and England, Jeffers has had an indifferent career.
But it is this stuttering career he is preparing to reboot with Newcastle Jets against Adelaide United on Saturday, which they won 3-1, and Jeffers looked sharp on the ball.
It started well enough, with Jeffers becoming joint top scorer with Alan Shearer for England at under-21 level. He even scored on debut at senior level in his only cap in a surprise 3-1 loss to the Socceroos at Upton Park in 2003.
Jeffers’ goalscoring touch had caught the eye of Arsene Wenger, prompting the Arsenal manager to spend $15 million to lure him to north London.
But Jeffers never settled in.
Injuries and well-documented spats with managers did not help further his career.
He played at Charlton Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday. At Sheffield Wednesday, they played by Crystal Palace on the last game and the result relegated Wednesday at the end of last season.
Now Jeffers, 29, finds himself in the Hunter as the first player signed, albeit on a 10-match guest stint, since mining magnate Nathan Tinkler took over as Jets owner two months ago.
Coach Branko Culina will be looking to Jeffers to improve the Jets’ goal-scoring this season as they have only five goals in 11 games.
Meanwhile, a Jets spokesman confirmed the returfing of EnergyAustralia Stadium had passed “muster” and was fit to play on after the surface was damaged last month.
In a further boost to the club’s stocks, Ben Katarovski, a local junior, signed a new three-year deal.