There is always added motivation for players returning to face their former club but there’s no extra incentive needed for Newcastle Jets midfielder Matt Ridenton against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.
Not only do the Jets need a win to keep their faint Finals Series hopes alive but there’s more to this match than just football for Ridenton.
Heading back to his country of birth for the second time as a Newcastle player, the tragic events in Christchurch almost two weeks ago – where 50 people lost their lives – are at the forefront of his mind.
“It was a massive shock for me as a New Zealander,” Ridenton said on the Jets’ official website.
“We pride ourselves on how safe it is as a country, so to have something happen like that was terrible and it hit a lot of people quite hard.
“The way the country has reacted and everyone there has supported each other has been awesome to see, and something that makes you proud to be a Kiwi when you see something like that.”
One the pitch though, the five-cap All Whites star would love to get it over his ex-teammates but a win at Westpac Stadium is more important for him than individual bragging rights.
Newcastle’s shock Round 22 defeat to Central Coast Mariners has left their Hyundai A-League Finals Series hopes on life support.
Ernie Merrick’s Jets (seventh) are currently five points behind sixth-placed Adelaide United, and with just five games left, every win and point is crucial.
Ridenton and his current teammates are well aware that one more slip-up could have them starting to plan their end-of-season trip.
“Every game for us now is pretty much a must win,” he admits.
“We’re chasing that top six and at the moment the goal for us is to score goals.
“We’re not going to win these games if we’re not scoring goals, and that’s probably been our downfall this season is not putting teams away when we have the chances and then being caught out.
“If we can score some goals early against Wellington and put them under pressure, that suits our game a bit more.”
Newcastle’s hopes of finding the net with more regularity have received a blow this week with news star playmaker Ronald Vargas has reaggravated a hamstring injury.
The Venezuelan won’t make the trip to Wellington, although Merrick is hopeful of having his three Australian U23 squad members – Joey Champness, Ivan Vujica and John Koutroumbis – back from international duty.