Following the signings of Bernie Ibini and Joe Ledley, Newcastle Jets head coach Carl Robinson is challenging his star players to earn a place in his team.
The Jets face in-form Perth Glory on Saturday and they sit 10th in the Hyundai A-League ladder having drawn back-to-back games since Robinson arrived in the Hunter.
Wales international Ledley and Ibini, who Robinson signed for Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps in 2017 after a spell at Sydney FC, have followed the newly appointed head coach through the doors at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Ibini will be in the match day squad to face Tony Popovic’s reigning Premiers, who are on a 10-game unbeaten run, while Ledley may also be involved subject to international clearance.
With recovering marquee star Wes Hoolahan also pushing for a start, the Welsh head coach may be forced to leave some high-profile attacking talent out of his line-up.
“Competition for players is the best thing for their form,” Robinson said.
“Some like it and some don’t because they are worried about their own position.
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“But the reality is if you’re going to grow as a team and grow as a football club, you are going to have competition for places all over the field and that’s what I’m trying to generate.”
In last week’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory, Robinson started with Roy O’Donovan and Panama international Abdeil Arroyo up front with Dimi Petratos playing behind as a number 10.
Robinson revealed he would not hesitate to play another number 10 alongside the Aussie playmaker, perhaps Hoolahan or Ibini – who the Jets head coach believes can fit into a number of roles across the forward line.
“[Ibini] brings different attributes to Arroyo,” Robinson added.
“I played him when I was in Vancouver as a wide player, he’s an inverted winger, but he can play as a number nine, he can play as a false nine, he can play as a number 10.
“I said to Dimi [Petratos], I can play with two 10s, that’s no problem.
“I want my good players that are in form in the team. I will adjust, I will make tactical switches based on the players that deserve to play.
“The more good players I have the easier it becomes, and then it’s down to the players to pick themselves in the team based on form.”
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Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
Saturday, 29 February
McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 5pm AEDT