The Newsroom previews each team in the 2014/15 Hyundai A-League.
Confidence is high and there is a fresh aroma at Hunter Stadium. The Newcastle Jets have the burden of being the under-achievers of the league. Despite bolstering an impressive line up with representative honours throughout, the red and blue have failed to reach the finals since the 2009-10 season – an astonishing feat since there are only ten teams in the competition. Gone is Gary van Egmond and owner Nathan Tinkler is looking to sell as well. The one-time champions look to have finally found a strong centre back pairing and a quality number 10 since Nick Carle. Can the Jets reach the finals under Phil Stubbins? Or will the Novocastrian faithful end the season disappointed again? Only time will tell.
Last Season: 7th
Ins: Adrian Madaschi (Jeju United), Josh Barresi (Western Sydney Wanderers), Marcos Flores (Central Coast Mariners), Jonny Steele (New York Red Bulls), Sam Gallagher (Hanoi T&T FC), Edson Montano (Barcelona SC, loan)), Jeronimo Neumann (Adelaide United), Billy Celeski (Lianoing Whowin FC), Allan Welsh (Croydon Kings)
Outs: Adam Taggart (Fulham), Josh Brillante (Fiorentina), Emile Heskey (Released), James Brown, Connor Chapman (Melbourne City), Ruben Zadkovich (Perth Glory), Zenon Caravella (Far North Queensland FC Heat), Joey Gibbs (APIA Leichhart Tigers), Josh Mitchell (Liaoning Whowin FC), Mitchell Oxborrow (Released), Craig Goodwin (Adelaide United)
Strengths: As always Newcastle have a roster mixed with kids and father figure-like players to help them along. It is a nice combination if developed correctly. If manager Phil Stubbins can get the best out of these players then they can become a genuine threat to opposition teams. The leadership of centre backs Madaschi and captain Kew Jaliens should instill confidence and a no-fear attitude in this side that will attempt to reach their first finals match since 2010.
Weaknesses: The Jets are one of the most inconsistent teams in the competiton, only putting three back-to-back victories together in the past two seasons. They have also lost Golden Boot winner Adam Taggart leaving a big hole in that number 9 position. Jeronimo will be under pressure to produce goals fast.
Key Player: 28-year-old Marcos Flores is now at his fourth A-League club since debuting for Adelaide in 2010. Injuries have since hampered the Argentininan from producing the form that won him the Johnny Warren Medal that year where he stole the show. Now back from another knee reconstruction, Flores is fit and raring to go for matchday one against recent employers, the Central Coast. His potential combination with Jeronimo Neumann is exciting Jets fans and will be a pivotal part of their season if they are to make the final six.
Manager: 51-year-old Phil Stubbins was assistant at Adelaide in their magical 2008 Asian Champions League run where they made the final. The English born manager has bided his time getting his first team managing experience in Vietnam, and he’s now ready to take charge of an A-League side. It won’t be easy cleaning up the mess that van Egmond left, but if he can instil trust and belief into this side, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.
Prediction: 9th. Missing out on key signings such as Besart Berisha and Erik Paartalu as well as losing a wealth of experience and talent, the Newcastle side have fallen behind this season and will struggle for results. – Chris Matthews-Darby
Top photo taken from PJ R’s Flickr photostream.