The Jets come off one of the worst seasons in the team’s long history. Forget the abysmal on-field results, it was the off-field drama and debacles that riddled the club and will leave a dark mark on the club for years to come. But fear not Jets fans, a new dawn awaits for the Blue and Gold.
Well the biggest arrival would be the eventual new owner, and the new manager in Scott Miller. Already Miller has created a different culture within the club and it’s infectious. Trainings are better, players are happier, and suddenly there is hope that the Jets may return to the glory days.
Then you look at the player personnel. The Jets welcome back Labinot Haliti…again….for the third time. Lab had a decent time with the Wanderers, but you can tell he belongs in the Hunter and will look to be a key to success for the Jets, but he will be frustrating in between.
Also returning is Jason Hoffman. The Hoff left the club as an attacking winger, and has come back and defender. He will be crucial to avoid embarrassing blow outs in 2015.
Another ex-Wanderer in Mateo Poljak has already shown his worth in pre-season. He was surprisingly let go after last year, and will be crucial for the Jets
Big acquisitions made with overseas players as well. 32 year old Brazilian Leonardo Santiago has been everywhere in Europe and will bring some much needed finesse and class to the midfield. Up front, Milos Trifunovic will look to bring the fun to Newcastle, and hopefully a bag full of goals too. Trifunovic is a journeyman himself, but has scored with ease wherever he has been, so look for him to surprise many in the league.
Finally, the return home of Novacastrian Nigel Boogaard to lead the Jets will be crucial. A proven defender in the league, Boogaard will look to bring back the defensive pressure the Jets are known to have.
It’s hard to tell which departures will leave a big hole, but one that is certain to hurt is the move of Andrew Hoole to Sydney FC. Hoole was an excellent two-way player for the Jets who had the potential to be a star, and that will be fast-tracked at the Sky Blues. Local Taylor Regan will also be missed, whilst the speed of James Virgili which had the potential to trouble defenders will be absent from the wings of Hunter Stadium.
That new coach smell still lingers in Newcastle, but it’s hard to see Scott Miller doing worse than the disaster that was Phil Stubbins. “Stubbsy” definitely left his mark on Newcastle, and Miller won’t be able to cover it up, but Miller would be better served paving his own legacy with the club that involves ending the Top 6 drought and bringing a winning culture back to the club.
Miller comes with a proven track record at Fulham, and has already molded the side into the sort of shape he would like, but it will be interesting to see how he goes will a full off-season of planning next year.
He gets a honeymoon period at the start, but the natives will get restless if it goes downhill quickly again.
Personally, I can’t see why the Jets can’t make 6th this year. It’ll be a challenge, but with the squad they’ve got it’s very doable. Many other pundits are forecasting another long year, but nothing will ever be as long as last year. There’s a better culture and feeling around the club, and if they can’t get some early wins, the season is theirs to play with.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Milos Trifunovic is the clear choice here. He arrived with very little fanfare and it seems eerily like the arrival of one Besart Berisha to the Roar. If he can be half the player Berisha is, the Jets will love him.
THREE KEY GAMES
Rd 2 vs. Sydney FC: First home game. If they win or get a respectable draw against Wellington in Week 1, then expect a good, vocal crowd to rock up. If the Jets can provide a reason for them to come, then they need to find it this game.
Rd 6 vs. Central Coast Mariners: It’s one of the most down-played rivalries in the league, but it is the original Derby and it’s built on pure hatred. The Jets have been bested by the Mariners for a while now, the last time the Jets won this fixture was 2012, since then the Mariners have won for and drawn 4. It will have been 1,120 days since the Jets had beaten the coasties, and that’s far too long.
Rd 7 @ Adelaide United: Everyone remembers the 7-0 thrashing that began the freefall of the Jets last season. Well the Jets have a chance to atone for that loss. If they do, then it’ll go a long way to helping the mentality of the Jets.
PREDICTED TABLE FINISH
Watch the Jets shock the world and finish 5th.
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