When Nigel Boogaard was quoted in the Newcastle Herald on December 15th, prior to last weekend’s match against Adelaide, that the Jets “need to make Hunter Stadium a fortress”, it got me thinking about how the team have performed on the much improved pitch over the last 12 months. I guess it came as no surprise what I found, because I certainly had an inkling, but more on that later.
To say it’s been a massive year both on and off the park for the Jets would be an understatement. It generally hasn’t been for the right reasons, either. It started in January with the club having achieved 7 points from a possible 39 before receiving the heaviest defeat in their history at the hands of Adelaide United.
This led to the departure of 3 coaching staff and 5 players from the club in one of the clubs lowest points. A second streak of 10 matches in the season without a win occurred before finishing the season with a 2-1 loss to a second string Brisbane, ensuring the wooden spoon returned to Newcastle once more. The Jets won only once at home last season – a 2-1 win over an Adelaide who had the week before won the inaugural FFA Cup.
Successive months where late payment of staff and player wages ensued, which eventually prompted the FFA into action and they responded by removing Tinkler’s A-League licence. Phil Stubbins was removed as manager and most players re-signed with the new entity, with only Jacob Pepper and Scott Neville moving to Western Sydney and Andrew Hoole moving to Sydney FC.
Under the guidance of Mitchell Murphy and his small, yet hard working team, the club started to restore some faith with the business community and fans alike. Major sponsorship was announced, membership engagement forums were held and the Jets started to reach out to the community. Then came the signing of Scott Miller who spoke of a desire to rebuild the team along with a man who had self-proclaimed unfinished business in Jean-Paul DeMarigny.
More than 7000 members signed up for the new regime with potential optimism about a team, on paper, mixed with A-League quality in Boogaard, Daniel Mullen, Mateo Poljak, David Carney and Mark Birighitti and overseas quality in Lee Ki-Je, Enver Alivodic and Leonardo Santiago.
The club had started this A-League campaign well with 3 wins from 4 matches – a stark turnaround from Season 2014/15, but since then have found teams more difficult to break down. There’s no doubting the Jets have suffered from serious and ongoing injuries to key players which has forced Miller to blood younger players from the squad early in the season.
While Miller’s team have a better record at home this year than the squad under Stubbins (he’s only 1 point behind equalling Stubbin’s record at home for points attained), the Jets in my opinion have failed to capitalise on the advantage you would expect from a home team over the last 12 months.
In 2015, the Jets record in the 14 matches at home was 1 win, 5 draws and 8 losses. They scored 9 goals and conceded 20. In only one match they managed scored more than 1 goal. They’ve scored 1 goal in the first half of a home match, the only match they’ve lead at half time, compared to 3 from the opposition. The Jets have also been held scoreless in 7 matches. Throughout this run, more than 9200 loyal fans, on average, have shown up to mostly go home disappointed.
I honestly forget how it feels to celebrate a win and the memories of a Jet’s team from the early A-League years full of attacking swagger are fading. There are many questioning the atmosphere, or lack there-of at Hunter Stadium, but with results like those above is it any surprise? I look forward to the days when I can again attend a match confident a team is going to struggle against us. At the moment, I attend matches full of uncertainly about what Jets team will show up and whether we can repel the opposition for 90 minutes.
I’m optimistic the last year’s results aren’t reflective of the fortress the Jets are looking to build. There’s no doubt the task ahead is massive. It will be interesting to look back in another 12 months and see if we have progressed, because to me, as it currently stands, Hunter Stadium doesn’t look a fortress. It looks more like a cubby-house.
David Keating aka Jeterpool