Newcastle Jets 2013/2014 Season Preview

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After three successive seasons without qualifying for the A-League finals, can the Newcastle Jets finally turn their fortunes around?  That is the question Jets fans will be asking after enduring a tough couple of seasons both on and off the field. 
 

Marquee man Emile Heskey is back for another season and he will receive good support through new signing and fringe Socceroo Nathan Burns in the front third. The Jets have completed one of the most uninterrupted preseasons in the club’s history and along with some quality signings they have maintained the bulk of their squad from last year.  But has the experience gained from last season and a period of continuity under Gary Van Egmond steeled the Jets for a much improved season?
 

Last Season: 8th  

They’ll win the league because…

A full pre-season with Emile Heskey around the squad has ensured the Jets won’t enter the regular season unsure of how to best utilise the target man. The Jets have bolstered the front third with the acquisition of Nathan Burns who along with Adam Taggart will provide great support for their marquee man. 

Young guns Craig Goodwin, Josh Brilliante and Taggart have all made their senior Socceroos debuts in the off season and will enter the A-League brimming with confidence. The Jets have also bolstered their defensive line with the signing of former Dutch International Kew Jaliens. The experienced centreback will provide much needed stability for a Newcastle outfit who conceded a staggering 45 goals last campaign. 

The Jets look a far more balanced side this year and will be well led by captain Ruben Zadkovic and the ever consistent Zenon Caravella in midfield. There is plenty of competition for places amongst the squad with the likes of Taylor Regan, Scott Neville, James Brown, James Virgilli and Andrew Hoole vying for first team spots. The Jets have some of the finest young talent in the A-League and it is only a matter of time until they develop into a formidable lineup under Gary Van Egmond.



They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

…they’ll make mistakes. The squad is brimming with talented but inexperienced youngsters and their ability to remain consistent is a major concern for the Jets. The team leak too many cheap goals as a result of errors at the back and a largely unchanged backline will again be under immense pressure. 

Gary Van Egmond’s up-tempo possession based philosophy failed to reap rewards last season and the Jets players could be in for another long season if they can’t adapt. Opposition teams know that if they press the Jets when playing out from the back they are susceptible to cheap turnovers and can punish them on the counterattack. Van Egmond’s tendency to chop and change his team will ensure the Jets are hopelessly inconsistent.


Talk around the watercooler… Look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.

Almost staggeringly, young Jets striker Adam Taggart has actually scored more senior goals for the Socceroos than he has for the Jets in the A-League. Since making his Socceroos debut in December 2012 against Hong Kong, Taggart has scored three goals in four matches for the national team. Yet in his 19 appearances for Newcastle, Taggart has only managed to find the back of the net twice. To his credit, he did manage a solitary goal on his starting debut for Perth Glory against Gold Coast United back in February 2011.


The off season brought…

…an almost uncharacteristic sequence of continuity: no coach sackings just days before the season; no threats of financial insolvency and no mass player exoduses this time around.  Another preseason under the tutelage of Gary Van Egmond  and some quality additions to the squad means the Jets are primed for a much improved season. 

Off the field the Jets have ditched their black and white away strip from last season and adopted an emerald green and cinnamon kit for the upcoming campaign. The kit is a throwback to Newcastle’s former club KB United, the first team to represent the region back in the old NSL in 1978. The signing of Nathan Burns and Kew Jaliens has given Jets fans reason to believe the team will be pushing for a top six berth come the end of the season. Although only on loan from Korean club Incheon United until early January, Burns is reportedly keen to extend his stay in the Hunter to enhance his chances of earning a Socceroos recall.



Key Player…

…Ruben Zadkovich. The captain of the Jets was certainly their most consistent player last season and his exceptional work rate in midfield earned him a call-up to the Socceroos at the East Asian Cup in July. The skipper will again anchor the midfield alongside Zenon Caravella and his input will be vital to ensuring the Jets remain consistent on a weekly basis. His combative nature and willingness to win the ball in midfield are key attributes and provide inspiration to his fellow teammates. He also has the ability to score long range goals from both open play and from dead ball situations. A real fan favourite – highlighted with his own supporter group aptly named ‘Zad’s Lads’.
  
One to watch

…Adam Taggart. The 20 year-old will be buzzing following his goals for the Socceroos at the East Asian Cup in July. Expect the livewire forward to light up the A-League this season and improve on his two goal haul from last campaign. Working alongside Emile Heskey and Nathan Burns, Taggart will be brimming with confidence and nail down a spot in Gary Van Egmond’s starting XI. With spots up for grabs in the Socceroos squad for next year’s World Cup, a big year for Taggart could seal his spot on the plane.

Full Squad List

1. Ben KENNEDY 2. Scott NEVILLE 3. Zenon CARAVELLA 4. Josh MITCHELL 5. Kew JALIENS 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI 7. James BROWN 8. Ruben ZADKOVICH (c) 9. Emile HESKEY 10. Nathan BURNS (on Loan) 11. Connor CHAPMAN 12. Joshua BRILLIANTE 13. Sam GALLAWAY 14. Taylor REGAN 15. Craig GOODWIN 16. Joey GIBBS 17. James VIRGILI 18. Jacob PEPPER 19. Michael BRIDGES 20. Mark BIRIGHITTI 21. Andrew HOOLE 22. Adam TAGGART

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