The Newcastle Jets are our next team to be looked at in our series of 2009/10 A-League season reviews. The 2007/08 Premiers improved sharply on their horrendous season last term by qualifying for the finals but things could have been much better if they were able to grind out more positive results at certain stages throughout 2009/10.
Finished: 6th regular season (knocked out of finals Week 2) Record: Wins - 10; Draws - 4; Losses - 13; Points - 34 Goals 33 Against: 45 Top goalscorer:Matt Thompson (8)
What went wrong? Three-straight losses from Round 6 to 8 and four-straight losses from Round 24 to 27 probably cost the Jets a home final where they saluted in seven of their 10 victories. They fact they managed to get to the second week of finals despite finishing sixth shows that a home final could have been important but the main difficulty Newcastle experienced was injuries. More often than not they were without key players including marquee man Fabio Vignaroli then his replacement Michael Bridges went down on the eve of the finals. Players were too often in and out of the line-up making life tough for coach Branko Culina.
What went right? Although the season started in poor fashion in the way of coach Gary van Egmond leaving his post before a ball was kicked, the Jets performed well for a majority of the season. Without a key frontman until Bridges came along, they were able to get decent results but too regularly they lost games at the death when a draw would have been handy. The semi-final penalty shootout win over Gold Coast United was a highlight and so was the form of players such as Labinot Haliti, Ali Abbas, Song Jin-Hyung, Matt Thompson and Tarek Elrich.
tribalfootball.com's Player of the Year:Matt Thompson. He was particularly outstanding throughout the second half of the season where he played a key role as the Jets won six of eight from Round 16 through to Round 23 and topped the goalscoring table from midfield with stints in defence.
Crowds: Home average - 6336. Biggest - 9892 (Rd 24 v Syd) Lowest - 4239 (Rd 15 vs. WP) Newcastle didn't really get what they were after in regards to attendances in 2009/10. With a population of close to 300,000 and the fact they are an established club, Newcastle regularly had crowds of under 7000 which was disappointing. A lot was probably due to the fact that they came off the back of a bottom-place finish the season prior.
The coach: Branko Culina. The former Sydney FC coach did a great job after being thrown into the ring when van Egmond left prior to the commencement of the season when he was just getting comfortable in his Technical Directors' role. They really should have finished in the top four but poor results late in the season thwarted that although they did qualify for the finals after sitting at the foot of the table in 2008/09, so Culina was able to strengthen the squad improve results.
Surprises: Letting inspirational skipper, leading goalscorer and games record holder Matt Thompson join Melbourne Heart.
Disappointments: The fact that Thompson has left plus Korean midfielder Song Jin-Hyung likely to sign a contract in France are two disappointing personnel factors. Star striker Joel Griffiths not wanting to return and Sunday's extra time loss to Wellington Phoenix would also have to be a major let down although they were not expected to win that contest.
Where to from here? The Jets need to consolidate their squad by bringing in replacement midfielders for the aforementioned duo and replace Vignaroli with a quality marquee player. They will want to hold onto youngsters like Ben Kantarovski and Ben Kennedy and will be hoping to tie up a deal for key defender Ljubo Milicevic as soon as possible as he was probably their most consistent performer.