Hyundai A-League season preview: Newcastle Jets

It’s been a rollercoaster few months. Now, ahead of a rapidly approaching new season, can the Jets find a manager and does he have enough time to implement a winning formula?

Coach sackings, player turnover and instability are unfortunately synonymous with the Newcastle Jets and the off-season has been no different. 

With no coach at the helm (as we write), and less than three weeks until the new campaign kicks off, there is a sense of déjà vu for Jets fans desperately hoping for an upturn in fortunes after six seasons without finals football.

But with financial security under new Chinese owners and a shrewd CEO on deck in former Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna, the club has the potential to start fresh and build towards an exciting new era for the region.

And with with a stronger-looking squad on paper, the Jets could well spring a surprise in Season 2016/17.

The burning questions

– Who will the club appoint to take over the head coaching role? Do they look for an experienced mentor or give a rookie boss a chance to prove his worth?

– Will the new man have enough time to implement his own philosophy on the playing group with the season just around the corner?

– Does the squad have enough quality and depth to have a genuine tilt at making the Hyundai A-League Finals Series?

Lessons learnt from last season

– Recruiting ageing, injury-prone foreigners in the front-third is a gamble.

– Competition for places and players who are able to play multiple positions are vital to improve squad depth and for a more adaptable playing style.

Newcastle's Wayne Brown scores against City in their pre-season friendly. Image courtesy Ballarat Courier

Road ahead

The Jets face a daunting start to the season with a clash against champions Adelaide United in Round 1, before matches against Brisbane, Western Sydney and Sydney FC to round out their opening month. But with three of those matches at home, if the club can get off to a good start then they will set themselves up for a much-improved season.

With no ACL or FFA Cup commitments and limited national team representation, the Jets should have a fairly settled squad throughout the campaign. Two home ‘F3′ derbies against Central Coast Mariners (Round 7, 21) will be eagerly anticipated fixtures, while multiple trips to bogey sides Wellington (Round 5, 24) and Perth (Round 10, 18) could prove decisive to their finals ambitions.

Expected strengths

– Solid defensively with the experience of Nigel Boogaard, Daniel Mullen and Co.

– Plenty of speed around the attacking third with the additions of Andrew Hoole, Andrew Nabbout and Devante Clut.

Potential weakness

– Where will the goals come from? Lack a genuine goal-scorer capable of 15 plus goals a season

– Overall squad depth looks to be thin should any injuries strike

Tactical approach

One very much dependent on the type of coach which the club appoints. The Jets have recruited more mobile players capable of getting in behind opposition defences so it’s likely they’ll look to employ a system which looks to exploit wide areas. The side utilized a 4-2-3-1 formation regularly last campaign and with a genuine playmaker in Wayne Brown at their disposal, this would seem a logical option to start the season. Classy Danish striker Morten Nordstrand will lead the line with Andrew Nabbout, Andrew Hoole and Devante Clut vying for the wide attacking  positions.

Andrew Hoole

Breakout star

Andrew Hoole. A huge talent who has yet to fulfill his undoubted talent in recent seasons with both the Jets and Sydney FC. Back at his home-town club, Hoole has been in sizzling form in pre-season, netting five goals in as many matches including a brace against Edgeworth Eagles.

Best-case scenario

The new coach hits the ground running, establishes a winning culture and returns the Jets to the top six. That is easier said than done, though. What the club needs more than anything is stability. Jets fans have had more than their fair share of disappointment and are desperate for a team they can be proud of. While a top-six finish would be an incredible achievement, supporters would be satisfied with a team that is competitive and works hard for each other. That’s the least they deserve.