The Newcastle Jets have found themselves in an end-of-season limbo, and it’s time to realistically consider what their future looks like in the A-League beyond this season.

With three games remaining in the regular season, it would require a miracle for the Jets to make the finals. Adelaide would have to absolutely bottle it to give the Jets even the slightest glimmer of hope, and coach Ernie Merrick is aware of this.

“All we can do is play our best football, try to win games, but unfortunately we’re in a situation where we have to rely on Adelaide to lose every game – and that won’t happen,” Merrick said after Newcastle’s 3-2 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.

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Newcastle’s marquee this season, Jair, was left out of the squad completely against the Wanderers. It’s a possibility that we won’t see Jair play for the Jets again. It just seems unlikely that the club will sign him on for another season.

Daniel Georgievski is also off contract at the end of the season and is set to be signing for the Wanderers next year. Newcastle have already replaced this significant loss with the signing of Matthew Millar from the Central Coast Mariners, who is a fullback who leads the league on assists this season (for the Mariners which is even more impressive).

Roy O’Donovan’s future at the Jets has also been in speculation. O’Donovan has been in contract talks with the club for next season, but they are yet to agree on terms. Having managed nine goals this season through an injury spell and some questionable form, losing Roy would be a big blow for Newcastle’s attack.

Now at a glance it looks like players are dropping like flies, but there’s reason to be optimistic for Jets fans. The squad is full of young talent, and Merrick has made a point of giving these younger prospects a chance to strut their stuff in the last few games.

“Now that we’re going to struggle to make the finals it’s time to give some of these younger boys a run because next year the could play a major part,” Merrick said.

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If the Jets can hold on to their key players in the off-season (or if not replace them with good signings like Matthew Millar), and develop the young talent (Joey Champness, Angus Thurgate, Johnny Koutroumbis, Ivan Vujica), there’s no reason why the Jets can’t be a strong side heading into next season and beyond.

Next season will be a huge in determining if Merrick’s era at the Jets has any longevity. His first season was immense, landing the Jets their first grand final in a decade. This season has been more challenging and inconsistent. In his next campaign, we’ll see if the Jets are able to complete the transformation from cellar dwellers into a regular top six team.

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Intern at The Football Sack covering The Newcastle Jets A-League and W-League home matches!