Gary van Egmond’s Jets crash and burn

John Davidson Roar Guru

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    Gary van Egmond sat slumped and defeated in his chair on the Newcastle bench, seemingly resigned to his fate, as the Western Sydney Wanderers romped home to claim the A-League premiership last Friday.

    Van Egmond’s muted display was an accurate reflection of the game, where the Wanderers never looked in doubt from the opening whistle while spurred on by a raucous fan-base, and the Jets listless season, which never really got going out of first gear.

    Back to back seasons of finishing eighth and seventh under van Egmond’s control, on top of a seventh place in 2010-2011 under his predecessor Branko Culina, are not sitting well with the Jets faithful.

    There is only so long that club can sell a ‘re-building’ and ‘blooding young players’ mantra and the fans continue buy it.

    The knives are out for Newcastle’s 2008 A-League grand final-winning coach, who rejoined the Jets in October 2011 after Culina’s sacking.

    A considered but emphatic message was drilled out by the Newcastle Herald’s sports editor Kevin Cranson on Monday.

    Analysing the 2012-2013 season, Cranson ended his comment piece with the simple statement:

    “Gary van Egmond has had his chance. It’s now time to give someone else a go.”

    He is not alone in that view.

    Many Jets supporters feel the same. The #gveout hashtag has been given a workout on Twitter this year and one wag put van Egmond up for sale on eBay.

    On Tuesday the Newcastle Herald, which does have a somewhat tempestuous relationship with Hunter Sports Group (the owners of the Jets), published another Jets analysis.

    This time it came from former Socceroo David Lowe, previously a member of the club’s coaching staff.

    Lowe’s piece was less emphatic but the underlying conclusion was the same: the Jets’ display has just not been good enough.

    The signs of the Jets malaise have been there for a while.

    The controversial departure of Kasey Wehrman last season and the sacking of the advisory board.

    The exits of top goal scorer Jeremy Brockie and starting centre back Nikolai Topor-Stanley before the start of this season.

    The signings of Bernardo Ribeiro and Dominik Ritter as visa players who haven’t been up to scratch. The reluctance to stick with a settled XI.

    The reluctance to play Michael Bridges, another visa player, at all until the dying stages of the season.

    The decision to let Ryan Griffiths, Newcastle’s equal top scorer this season with nine goals and its leader in assists with four, leave at a key point in this campaign.

    All of these decisions, and many others like the exit of Jobe Wheelhouse, are quite perplexing with greater scrutiny.

    The Jets 2012-2013 squad was always going to be too light on senior experience and too heavily reliant on youth.

    In the past two seasons van Egmond has been unable to get the Jets playing with any consistency or fluid style.

    They have scrapped, fought and battled, but there has been little class or craft.

    Van Egmond wants his charges to play a possession-based game, but too few of the Jets players appear regularly able to use the ball effectively and break down a committed defence.

    Newcastle has few goal scorers and creators.

    You take out the efforts of Griffiths and marquee Emile Heskey (who scored nine goals), and the rest of the Jets squad managed just 12 goals between them from 27 games. That is a diabolical stat.

    Here’s another – from round seven to the final game, round 27, the Jets won just four from 21 matches. That’s also diabolical.

    Yes they blooded young players. Yes some of these have bright futures, probably in the national set-up.

    Yes Heskey, a last minute signing who was secured by the front office and not van Egmond, was a success and Mark Birighitti has come to the fore. Birighitti was last night announced as the much-deserved winner of the club’s player of the year award.

    But that’s about all when you look at the season at a whole. When you consider the Jets finished 26 points behind the Wanderers, their opponents in the final round, 2012-2013 was nothing but a failure.

    And as the coach the ultimate responsibility lies with the 47-year-old van Egmond.

    The Hunter region is a proud footballing area with a strong junior base and a wonderful history. The Jets have a growing membership and receive good crowds.

    The building blocks are sound. Heskey is staying for another season and there are some promising players in their National Youth League squad, like young striker Kale Bradbery, the league’s top goal scorer.

    But this is a region that craves success and is tired of excuses.

    The Hunter Sports Group has today come out in support of van Egmond, insisting he will see out the final year of his contract in 2013-2014.

    Considering how ruthless football is, from the Hunter to Huddersfield, van Egmond is a lucky man.

    The 1988 Seoul Olympian and former Manly-Warringah Dolphins and AIS mentor now has six months to get it right and really turn the Jets around. I sincerely hope he can.

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