Ahead of a huge NSW derby with Sydney FC, Newcastle striker Labinot Haliti says the passion of the Hunter's football fans can help drive the Jets forward as a force again in the Hyundai A-League.
The 29-year-old, a member of the Jets' 2008 championship winning side, is back in the Hunter for his third stint with the club.
One of a number of key new arrivals under new boss Scott Miller, Haliti will be an integral member of the side and a club looking to rebuild in 2015/16 after finishing with the wooden spoon last season.
The likes of Nigel Boogaard, Mateo Poljak and Jason Hoffman have also been brought in and there’s a real sense of excitement and anticipation in Newcastle ahead of the club's first home game this Saturday against Graham Arnold's Sky Blues.
And Haliti believes restoring the faith of the locals will be a big factor if the club are to taste success again.
“I know for a fact it’s a very passionate crowd, a passionate city, they love their football and they turn up and support you,” Haliti told www.a-league.com.au.
“I know that and I have experienced it before. It’s a major factor why I came back.
“I know how much the community gives you and how much they support you. The support means a lot to the players.
“With that I think we can do good things and achieve a lot this season.”
While it might seem a bit fanciful for the club to go from the basement to the penthouse in one season, Haliti knows it can happen.
He’s already lived it with former club Western Sydney Wanderers FC.
The red and black won the Premiers Plate in their first season in the Hyundai A-League and just last year were crowned kings of Asia with their stunning AFC Champions League success.
“When we started at Wanderers I think the first three games we didn’t score a goal,” Haliti recalled.
“People were saying ‘are you going to even score a goal let alone win a game’. Then we went on a run and the rest is history."
Haliti has been impressed the energy and enthusiasm of new boss Miller and feels that is filtering through to the playing group.
“The coaching staff has been great. Scott and JP [assistant coach Jean Paul de Marigny] work well together and the boys have enjoyed the time so far,” the Pristina-born striker said.
“We’re building something special here.
“Obviously the last few years have been bad results. The team is the focus and as long as everyone is on the same page I’m sure we’ll be right.”
Of all the new signings the Jets have made for the upcoming season, the addition of Brazilian midfielder Leonardo Vitor Santiago is the one that is sure to excite the home fans.
Asked how the former Ajax and Feyenoord playmaker is settling in to his new surrounds, Haliti said: It can be difficult when you come from Europe.
“You have to get used to a lot of things…food, climate, timing, the atmosphere. But the boys have made him feel welcome and that’s what we’re all about.
“The coaching staff have brought that into us that we’re a team and that’s the most important thing, the team comes first.
“We’ve made him feel welcome and he’s going to be great for us.”