Joe Ledley has swapped South Wales for life in New South Wales, with the Welsh midfielder today finalising a deal to play for the Newcastle Jets until the end of the season.
Since his one-month contract with English Championship side Charlton expired at the end of January, Ledley had been training with League Two outfit Newport County, a short drive from his Cardiff home.
County had hoped to strike a deal to sign the 33-year-old, with Ledley telling BBC Sport Wales at the beginning of February: "There are options, but for me I’d like to be closer to home.
"I’ve been away - only for a month - and family comes first for me now."
It would appear though that the former Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Derby County man has reconsidered, and has instead moved to link up with former Welsh teammate Carl Robinson, who was recently appointed Head Coach by the Jets.
Despite Ledley’s earlier insistence of staying local, the move should perhaps not come as too much of a surprise.
Ledley is represented by Avid Sport Entertainment, and Carl Robinson has close links to Managing Director David Baldwin.
Several Jets players are also on the Avid roster, including Bernie Ibini, who joins the Welshman at the McDonald Jones Stadium—the pacy winger making his A-League return after a three-year absence.
Both men will come into a side bolstered by a four-match unbeaten run which has lifted the Jets off the foot of the table.
There will be question marks over Ledley’s fitness, who has been restricted to just five appearances over the last two seasons.
But what cannot be denied though is his pedigree. Ledley has spent his career playing in the EFL Championship, the EPL, and the Scottish Premier League. He also has Champions and Europa League experience during a successful four years with Celtic, a period immortalised in song by a class of young Thai schoolchildren.
He was also ever present in the Welsh side on its famous run to the semi-finals during Euro 2016, winning the last of his 77 caps in June 2018.
Ledley had not given up on a return to the national fold, but his move to the A-League will surely make these prospects more remote.
This is to say nothing of the emergence of young Welsh talent such as Ethan Ampadu, Harry Wilson and Daniel James, which must also hinder the veteran’s chances of a comeback.
In his pomp, the midfielder was known for his high energy and work-rate, renowned as a ‘box to box’ midfielder. Ledley’s first task with the Jets will be to force his way into a midfield marshalled well by Angus Thurgate and Steven Ugarkovic during the team’s recent uptick in form.
The likes of Thurgate, just 20 years old, may benefit from having Ledley on hand to pass on some extra know-how. Boosted too by the return of Irish schemer Wes Hoolahan during the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory, the Jets will be looking for a strong finish to what has been a disappointing campaign.
For Ledley, the chance to claim some much-needed first team minutes will be an opportunity to put himself in the shop window for a possible return to club football in Europe.
Alternatively, should he impress sufficiently, the Jets may well look to keep the midfielder beyond this season.
It’s unlikely Ledley will feature in Newcastle’s clash with Perth Glory this coming weekend. With a bye to follow this round, and with added time to continue on his fitness, an A-League debut away at Adelaide on Sunday March15 would appear to be in the offing.