Season Review: Newcastle

Gary van Egmond has big, title-winning ambitions with the Jets - but their season was so up and down, it was either world class or bottom-shelf amateur.

The Newcastle Jets- season was so up and down, it was either world class or bottom shelf amateur.

They started off the season in turmoil, with the controversy surrounding Branko and Jason Culina.

But with the inexperienced Craig Deans taking charge for the first three games and picking up an impressive six points from nine, it was more a case of carrying on from where Branko left off.

The club then went back to the man who delivered them their grand final triumph. It was always going to be problematic when Gary van Egmond took over so early in the season, as he of course would - as a new coach does - immediately implement his own ideas and stray away from all the work that was done in the off-season.

The timing of the coaching change was the major factor to the Jets- poor start with only 13 points from Van Egmond-s first 14 games in charge, before his team clicked and had a momentous run during the latter stages of the season. It was always going to take time for Van Egmond-s philosophy and tactics to bear fruit.

Once they got their act together, Newcastle looked more like a team that could go on and demolish everything in sight from sixth place in the finals.

It took a four-point gap outside of the top six to kick start the Jets into form. Wins in Brisbane and Sydney, and away to Melbourne Victory, showed that this was a team that had all the ability, but it was the final game v Sydney that really put the players to the test.

The Jets were in a position of protecting their position on the ladder and stood to lose something - and lose they did. It was a lack of mental strength and concentration that was the telling factor.

The Jets‘ first-half performance v Sydney was the worst I have seen them play and destroyed all the great work of previous weeks that put them in the positive position they were in approaching the final and most important game of the season.

Constant loss of possession in dangerous areas, glaring tactical errors and a back four that looked more like a circus act, it was hugely disappointing from a team that came into the Sydney game riding high on confidence.

That diabolical first half had them chasing the game and left them with too much of a gap to bridge to avoid defeat.

The game against Sydney was an indicator of the mental strength - or lack of it - of certain individuals; one that for the coach should be a barometer for the future on who he can or cannot rely on in reaching the goals he sets.

Gary van Egmond has big ambitions with the Jets, wants an attractive brand of football, one with high intensity, technique and speed, and that philosophy means finals football and a shot at winning a grand final.

To achieve that you need the players that will accept working within that philosophy, but just as important is having players who thrive on pressure and not succumb to it. A squad clean-out has been rumoured, but that always depends on who you can get as replacements.

Ryan Griffiths and Jeremy Brockie were the main contributors to any on-field success during the season.

Griffiths not only was an excellent leader for the young guns in the Jets squad, but scored goals and assisted others in getting their name on the scoresheet as well.

Brockie had the same impressive statistics and scored some goals that were so sublime that the highlights reel will still be heating up in years to come.

Francis Jeffers was a disappointment and didn-t show enough to command a foreign import spot in the Hyundai A-League, which should be held by a foreigner who stands out above the rest. The same applies to Byun and Tiago.

Kantarovski-s season was pretty much one to forget. Although he has had injury problems in the past, more has to come from a player of his quality, and he has to be more dominant and influential in games.

Jacob Pepper has great potential; I-ve been hugely impressed with this 19-year-old kid and hope he takes his game to another level next season.

Having lived in Newcastle, I know how passionate the Novocastrians are about their town and their football team. That passion can be built on, and it is a building block that-s priceless. The Jets owe it to their passionate following to build a team that has a realistic shot at silverware.