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Striking It Fine – The Jets Number 9s!

In the days following another Jets defeat in the FFA Cup Round of 32, the post mortem of the performance was undertaken in the media, on forums and through social channels. One point I didn’t see discussed was, as it currently stands, that Newcastle are now 620 minutes without scoring a goal in competitive matches. While Dimi Petratos came within mere millimetres and his brother Kosta came within Jordan Elsey’s head of breaking that drough , Ernie Merrick correctly pointed out in the Newcastle Herald the need to recruit more goals into the team.

This got me thinking about the Jets history of recruiting strikers, in particular those who have been allocated the shirt synonymous with the primary job of putting the ball in the back of the net – the number 9. With Roy O’Donovan the latest incumbent to this position, withthe opportunity to become just the 3rd Jets player to reach double figures ahead of him, lets take a look over the players to have worn ‘9’ for the Jets and their relative performances while wearing that shirt.

2005 – 2006 Ante Milicic
The former Socceroo was a massive signing for the Jets in the first year of the A-League. Forever written into the club’s history as the first scorer in the A-League, Milicic scored 7 goals in 20 appearances in his only season before heading to Queensland Roar.

2006 – 2007 Vaughan Coveny
A mid-season recruit the previous year, the New Zealand international scored 5 goals in 21 appearances wearing 9 that season. Coveny wasn’t retained at the end of that season and headed to new franchise Wellington Phoenix, following the demise of New Zealand Knights.

2007 – 2009 Joel Griffiths
After wearing 18 in his first season back in Australia, Griffiths scored 21 goals in 39 appearances, including a 14 goal season that brought the A-League title to Newcastle. It can’t be disputed that Griffiths is the Jets’ iconic number 9 and this period is by far the most successful of any wearing the shirt.

2009-2010 – Sasho Petrovski
During his time wearing the 9, Petrovski’s performances were underwhelming – scoring just 2 goals in 19 appearances (6 of which were starts). Despite this, the following season Petrovski would score 6 goals in 291 minutes of play for the Jets the following season to back up his ACL heroics.

2010-2011 Shuo Zhang
Branko Culina recruited the former Chinese international from Persik Kediri to add more fire power up front. And like the Jets that season, Shuo struggled and he scored his solitary goal in 8 appearances against Gold Coast United.

2011-2012 Michael Bridges
The Englishman was the next to wear the Jets 9, and like the two before him, struggled to find the net – scoring 2 goals in 17 appearances. It must be mentioned that Bridges appearances during this season were limited to just 4 starts and 13 from the bench in 614 minutes of play. He’d later vacate the shirt that was would be taken by his compatriot.

2012-2014 Emile Heskey
Arguably the highest profile player to wear a Jets shirt, let alone the number 9, Heskey was an immediate success for the Jets – scoring 5 goals in his first 6 appearances. During his first campaign netted 9 times in 23 matches before struggling with injury in his second, when he scored once in 19 appearances as young striker Adam Taggart had a break out season.

2014-2015 Joel Griffiths
After returning in the previous January to much fanfare, Griffiths would make 15 appearances and score 3 goals before being unceremoniously dumped from the team as part of a mid-season clear-out by then-owner Nathan Tinkler and coach Phil Stubbins.

2015-2016 Milos Trifunovic
New coach Scott Miller recruited Trifunovic to his new Jets team. Many Jets fans were torn on Serbian, but his record certainly holds up as the “Ice-man” netted 9 goals in 22 appearances, including 4 penalties. His goals per game ratio is one every 2.44 – the same as Joel Griffiths and Adam Taggart.

2016-2017 Aleksandr Kokko
Kokko was recruited by Miller prior to his departure from the club, and after sustaining an injury in the first half of his first A-League appearance, the Finn struggled to gain any momentum in his Jets career. His only goal in 13 appearances came against the Mariners, though he left legacy with fans after continuing to play with a broken draw sustained in the F3 Derby.

2017-currentRoy O’Donovan
The Irishman has been recruited to provide more mobility and aggression in the Jets front line. He showed at the Central Coast Mariners he can find the back of the net – often in spectacular fashion. It’s form he will need to replicate, with the help of those around him, for the Jets to break their finals hoodoo this year.

Looking over the 13 seasons, the “Number 9” has been worn 216 times, for an output of 61 goals (or a goal every 3.54 games). This means the player with the symbolic responsibility to put the ball in the net is scoring just over 7 goals per season (27 game season).I acknowledge there are many circumstances that impact these numbers and a striker’s effectiveness and I’m not suggesting this will reflect the contribution of O’Donovan on the Jets this season. But it is clear that a great output from the Jets marksman is needed if the club are to again play finals football.

BLOG: The More Things Change……..

So, obviously the news has been confirmed that Scott Miller has been removed as head coach at the Newcastle Jets, effective immediately.
While it’s never a great idea to remove a coach a few weeks before the season starts, at least this time it wasn’t a few days before the opening round like when Branko Culina was removed in 2011 due to a difference of opinion with senior management on the ongoing fitness of a marquee player that also happened to be his son.

First and foremost, Scott deserves sincere thanks from everyone associated with this football club for coming into the Jets when we were absolutely at our lowest point in our history. He worked in a club under FFA ownership after one of our worst seasons, a very ordinary squad, no money for marquee players or even the ability to spend all of the wage cap. And this was with no guarantee beyond the end of the season he would even be retained should new owners come in. He was on a hiding to nothing when he arrived, and I am sure he was hoping that with the ownership sorted in the offseason, he would be able to make a decent fist of things in upcoming seasons. However, it was not to be.

Scott Miller stats (thanks to @Jeterpool)

  • 29 games in charge (27 A-League, 2 FFA Cup)
    3rd longest serving Jets coach
    (1) Gary Van Egmond 144 games
    (2) Branko Culina 59 games
  • Wins 8 (27.6%) Draws 6 (20.7%) Losses 15 (51.7%)
    Second worst win percentage in Jets history
  • Avg Goals Scored per match 1.069
    Avg Goals conceded per match 1.586
  • First coach in Jets history to lead us to victory after going 2 goals down in a match
  • Coach with the most points in Jets history attained after going behind in a match (8)

While some people with unrealistic expectations will look at those stats in isolation and point out we also didn’t make the finals yet again, we were much more difficult to beat. Lets not forget that the most important stats to remember was that we won away in Gosford for the first time in 2969 days and were undefeated against the Mariners in the regular season for the first time since season 3.

Stats aside, no-one apart from the most negative of online commenters on Newcastle Herald articles could say that Miller and JP didn’t make the players play with passion for the shirt and for the long-suffering supporters in the stands last season. Even if results didn’t go our way a lot of the time, it seemed pretty clear that Scott had the backing of a decent majority of Jets supporters who were prepared to give him a chance. Most people were interested to see how he would continue to develop the squad and playing style now that the club had been sold and was on a stable ownership footing rather than under FFA ownership and being run on the smell of an oily rag.

But that wont happen now unfortunately, and it’s likely it will take a while for the details to come out. However its seems (according to reports) that there was a significant falling out between Miller and his new assistant Luciano Trani, who was brought in to replace Jean-Paul de Marigny, which precipitated Millers removal from the head coach position. And it also appears from an interview with Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna on ABC Newcastle during Paul Bevan’s Drive program that the decision was made by senior management in China rather than Lawrie himself.

After making numerous platitudes in a local media charm offensive regarding local consultation and engagement when taking over in June, in one fell swoop Ledman Group has seriously dented the cache of goodwill from the footballing community that had been banked up simply by not being Nathan Tinkler or for that matter, the FFA. Ledman Group’s next move will be key in reassuring novocastrians – deflated by seasons of disappointment, empty promises and false dawns – that the Jets are headed for an extended period of stability rather than the continual roller-coaster ride that seems to be part and parcel of supporting a Newcastle team in the national football competition.

The next coaching appointment needs to be for the long term, be someone with a clear philosophy and it will be interesting to see which of the usual suspects will put their hand up for the job and whether any left-field applicants are made public. Solid local NPL coaches Arthur Papas, Mark Rudan and Damien Mori would seem to be in line for a shot at the position along with other well known coaches such Mike Mulvey, Miron Bleiberg and Aurelio Vidmar. Could it be time Mark Jones or Clayton Zane be elevated into a top gig? Could Ante Milicic be ready to move from his Socceroos assistant role into the head coaching role? Or are there any local coaches in the NNSW NPL competition ready to make the step up?

Alternatively, could Ledman Group be persuaded to spend a little more money and bring in a higher calibre overseas coach? Would that regain a little bit of goodwill, lost thanks to the events of Wednesday afternoon? Time will tell but as always, never let it be said that life as a Jets supporter was ever boring.

Never Tear Us Apart


BLOG: More Cubby House than Fortress

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