Season preview | Newcastle Jets

With a rebuilt team and a genuine marquee signing, the Jets could be this year's surprise package.

With a rebuilt team and a genuine marquee signing, the Jets could be this year's surprise package.

Sports teams in the Hunter are quite used to some spring cleaning - just ask sister club the Knights what it-s like when a new coach takes over.

But after coming in late last season, this term Gary van Egmond has had all the time he needs to build the team he wants and implement his strategies.

After a tumultuous off-season, the Jets looks steadier than ever, despite the playing squad having undergone wholesale changes.

The turnover of personnel might actually help the Jets, but the biggest concern is the emphasis on youth and whether they have enough experience left in the squad to be a threat.

But alongside the likes of Ryan Griffiths, Ruben Zadkovic and Jobe Wheelhouse, the arrival of Emile Heskey could have a huge impact on the Jets- season.

The former England forward offers another dimension in attack, and as well as goals, will create many more opportunities as his teammates exploit their pace and space.

It was already going to be interesting to see how van Egmond-s investment in youth would pay off, but Heskey could yet turn the Jets into a force to be reckoned with this term.

Key player: Emile Heskey Heskey isn-t the key because he-s the marquee or because of his name, but because of the manner in which he could spark the Jets into serious contenders.

Defenders will find him a handful and teammates will use him as the perfect foil; if he can weigh in with a few goals of his own, it could be a spectacular signing.

X-Factor: James Brown Injuries cut Brown-s last season at Gold Coast short, but his eye for goal and ability on the ball is well known. With Heskey holding up the ball, it will really free Brown up to be a true no.10 and that is a dangerous prospect.

Coach: Gary van Egmond Having worked at the AIS van Egmond is adept at working with young talent and he will have to be. The most successful coach in the history of the club knows what he wants and is an astute tactician. Now with a full season behind him, expect him to succeed.

Transfers In: Emile Heskey (England), Bernardo Ribeiro (Skënderbeu Korçëm Albania), Dominik Ritter (FC Winterthur, Switzerland, Josh Mitchell (Perth Glory), Mark Birighitti (Adelaide United), Mitch Cooper (Gold Coast United), James Brown (Gold Coast United), Craig Goodwin (Melbourne Heart), Adam Taggart (Perth Glory), Joshua Brillante (Gold Coast), Scott Neville (Perth Glory) , Mitchell Oxborrow (AIS Youth), Connor Chapman (AIS Youth) Out: Nikolai Topor-Stanley (released), Tarek Elrich (released), Ali Abbas (Sydney FC), Jeremy Brockie (Wellington Phoenix), Labinot Haliti (released), Kasey Wehrman (released), Byun Sung-Hwan (released), Mario Simic (released), Matthew Nash (released), Chris Payne (released), Francis Jeffers (released)

Key fixtures: Round 3 v Central Coast Mariners (A) The first derby of the season for the Jets should give them a good chance of knocking off a revamped Mariners outfit. A win here could really kick-start something special.

Round 22 v Brisbane Roar (H) The Jets have an enviable record against the Roar juggernaut and a win here would send them into the run to the finals on a high.

Round 25 v Adelaide United (A) Neither team is regarded as a threat for the Premier-s Plate, but both could play finals, this fixture could be key to their chances in the final few weeks.

Stat Shot The Jets proved in 2011-12 they can knock the ball around and passed a league third 8530 times (Brisbane were first with 15077), those passes didn-t lead to all that much though with the Jets taking just 303 shots (Second worst in the league), this year they need to make sure their passing actually takes them closer to goal.

Prediction: Sixth (This is not the author-s prediction but an average of footballaustralia.com.au contributors.)


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