Ernie Merrick is a man of many talents and his overhaul this season at Newcastle Jets exemplifies that but it’s his stark honesty that re-affirms he’s not only a great coach, but a great man as well.

Sure it’s easy to be happy when you’re five points off top spot and proving all the doubters wrong by turning a club in shambles into a force to be reckoned with but there’s certainly plenty of coaches in this country and abroad who don’t carry out their role with such grace.

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Merrick came out after Newcastle Jets’ 1-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix on the weekend with a pretty frank assessment of his team’s performance and heaped praise on his former side.

“It’s good to get a wee bit of luck today I must say. I think Phoenix should’ve won the game with twice as many shots as us. Fortunately St. Patrick smiled upon us,” Merrick said.

“Having a high line was the opposite to what we wanted and no matter what I did I couldn’t get the line to drop. We missed our captain organising us today really.”

Merrick’s frank assessments and tendency to call it how he sees it is refreshing in our game even if he at times ruffles feathers – such as his criticism of referee Peter Green’s performance following a heated draw with Western Sydney Wanderers in February.

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The Scotsman is usually never short of a joke about needing a whisky or two post match however and is often in a jovial mood even if results have not gone his way.

That’s not to say he publicly blasts his players or gives them a free ride in the press. He has however a knack of giving an under-performing player a kick up the backside if they require it.

A particularly memorable example was when he was frustrated with how far forward defensive-midfielder Steven Ugarkovic was often getting and suggested he might be trying to make friends with the corner flags.

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Merrick’s jovial public demeanour has clearly rubbed off on his players and whether or not he maintains this behind the dressing room doors, he has brought this group of players together into a cohesive unit.

The Jets are now capable of coming up with big performances with their backs against the wall like their 10-man win over league leaders Sydney FC in round 22.

Following the Sky Blues’ recent poor run of form Merrick’s Jets are just five points off top spot with four games remaining and have a chance to become the first side in A-League history to go from last to first in consecutive seasons.

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Living and studying in Newcastle. Pretty obsessed with football. Newcastle Jets and Chelsea FC fan