AUSTRALIAN World Cup hopeful Dean Heffernan is close to joining Town.
It’s believed boss Lee Clark will hold talks with the 29-year-old left back with the aim of bringing him to the Galpharm for the remainder of the season.
And with the campaign Down Under nearing its end, Heffernan sees a stint in England as the ideal way to stay sharp ahead of the big event in South Africa this summer.
The former Nuremburg player is aiming to build on his recent stand-out display for the Socceroos against Kuwait by cementing a place in national coach Pim Verbeek’s plans.
His arrival to bolster Town’s League I promotion bid would be exciting for fans, who have already seen Clark bring in centre-backs Krystian Pearce and Neal Trotman this transfer window.
It’s understood Heffernan, who has a 2010-11 contract with A-League newcomers Melbourne Heart already in place, will negotiate an early release from his deal with current club Central Coast Mariners, based 50 miles North of Sydney in Gosford.
Their hopes of making the A-League play-offs were dealt a blow when they could only draw 1-1 at home to Gold Coast United on Friday – the 24th of 27 matches and the first Heffernan has missed all season.
Now the man nicknamed ‘Sonic’ by Mariners fans because of his pace and energy looks set to join Town’s bid for a Championship berth and become only the second Aussie ever to play for the club after striker Scott McDonald, now with Celtic.
Australia’s only scheduled international between now and the end of the English season is against Indonesia in Brisbane on Wednesday, March 3 (Town visit Southampton the night before).
Town have loaned Joe Skarz to League II Shrewsbury, leaving Robbie Williams the only specialist left-back on the books.
DEAN HEFFERNAN has played A-League football since the inception of the competition in 2005-06.
Next season, he will wear the colours of newcomers Melbourne Heart, who will become the 11th member club.
His current team, Central Coast Mariners, compete alongside eight others from Australia and one, Wellington Phoenix, from New Zealand.
Playing in blue and yellow stripes, Central Coast are based at the 20,000-capacity Bluetongue Stadium in the New South Wales city of Gosford, 50 miles North of Sydney.
Their closest A-League rivals are Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC.
Australia’s other four biggest cities are all represented – by Brisbane Roar and their neighbours Gold Coast United, Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United and, way out West, Perth Glory.
The 10th team, Robbie Fowler-skippered North Queensland Fury, come from Townsville, up on the North-Eastern coast of the country.
Melbourne are the most successful and, with average crowds of more than 20,000, best supported side in the competition.
They topped the table and won the play-offs last season, and with three games of the current campaign to go, hold a two-point advantage over second-placed Sydney.
But Heffernan and Central Coast have had their big days, winning the pre-season cup in 2005-06, when they were beaten by Sydney in the play-off final, and topping the table in 2007-08, when Newcastle beat them in the play-off showpiece.
Central Coast’s captain is an Aussie, Alex Wilkinson, and their manager Scotsman Lawrie McKinna.
The 48-year-old made 87 league appearances for his hometown club Kilmarnock before moving to Australia as a player in 1986.
After coaching at Sydney Olympic, Sydney United and Parramatta Power, he managed Sydney side Northern Spirit before taking over at Central Coast in 2005. He won the A-League coach of the year award in his first season.
The current Central Coast squad includes former Northampton defender Chris Doig, ex-Sheffield United midfielder Nicky Travis and Welsh pair Matt Crowell, once with Wrexham, and Jonathan Brown (Cardiff).
With three games remaining, Central Coast are seventh, one place outside the play-off zone, with six wins and nine draws from 24 matches.