Gary van Egmond’s Jets crash and burn

John Davidson Roar Guru

By John Davidson, John Davidson is a 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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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • April 3rd 2013 @ 10:56am
      Jordan said | April 3rd 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      Good article. If GVE stays I fear many supporters will not renew their memberships. Surely the club must be sick of our terrible performances and mediocre results.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

    • April 3rd 2013 @ 12:09pm
      Michael_Newcastle said | April 3rd 2013 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      Hear, hear! (except for your closing sentence):

      I hope they sack him. Two years underperforming is a pretty good stint. GVE would understand his sacking and would easily go back to youth development in the AIS. Merewether FC U10’s could use someone too.

    • Editor

      April 3rd 2013 @ 1:07pm
      Tristan Rayner said | April 3rd 2013 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      Breaking news – Emile Heskey has re-signed for the 2013/14 season.

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2013 @ 2:45pm
        AndyRoo said | April 3rd 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        Awesome and surprising.

    • April 3rd 2013 @ 1:28pm
      hutcho said | April 3rd 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

      it has been hard work being a jets fan for the last couple of years. The constant bickering with the local media. The obvious disharmony within the squad. The utter crap they are serving up on the weekends….

      Someone needs to take responsibility for the dismal performances this year.

    • Roar Guru

      April 3rd 2013 @ 2:44pm
      AndyRoo said | April 3rd 2013 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

      GVE talks the talk about playing good football.

      Hasn’t walked the walk yet though and has some strange outbursts against young players to boot.

      This season was a real shame because I was pretty excited by some of the young talent Newcastle had collected before this season.

    • Roar Guru

      April 3rd 2013 @ 2:55pm
      Griffo said | April 3rd 2013 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

      There was a great sense of deja vu going in to the later part of this season when comparing last season – players leaving or having stalled contract talks, must win last game to have a hope of finals football, even the same way the team played with vastly different squads a year on from HAL7, the constant background noise of GVE alienating players that speak up…

      …not usually one to call for coach sackings after losing a few games, walking out of Hunter Stadium last Friday naturally thinking of next season the overwhelming thought was that I couldn’t see anything changing next season with GVE in charge.

      At this point I think we will again be well prepared for next season and seem to do well (table position-wise) early in the season, but then the gradual slide down the table, not playing consistently, with constant tinkering of starting players and positions, but in the end having to fight for a glimmer of making sixth spot only to miss out, again. In fact I think that we might next year not be in contention for sixth spot at the final round and finish 9th.

      Have to agree in essence with both Kevin Cranson’s and David Lowe’s articles: I don’t think the message (of the game plan) is being adequately put to the playing group; that the players are disillusioned and low in confidence due to not being sure of the game plan as it evolves back and forth and fear of making mistakes; that there is some underlying disharmony in the group; that young players showing a lot of promise early on are now seemingly stalled or going backwards due to being cast adrift at times; that the senior playing group seems to not have as much of a significant role as they have in the past, or are broken up if they have too much of a role.

      Certainly there is justification for sacking GVE when making the top-six was seen as a priority this season and there has been little improvement with a rebuilt squad.

      I wonder though if there is just not enough funds to pay out the remaining year of GVE’s contract? That would make some sense than the spin of loyalty and there still being a job to do and being on track with the clubs direction.

      I think in general the players are of decent enough quality that they should be competitive higher up the ladder. While consistency is an issue for teams from about position four down, a consistent approach and game plan and belief would transform this playing group to some degree in a positive sense.

      If GVE doesn’t appear to have answers, is no longer sure of the game plan and does not believe in the team of his own choosing, then either the players go or the coach must be let go.

      Letting go of players occurred last year, the Jets should let the coach go this year.

      While I will buy memberships for HAL9, I think the club will see some drop off in numbers next year due to sticking with GVE. I can understand that being a form of protest, but I agree with one comment that perhaps members should collectively organise a protest at games if more of the same occurs next year – we’ve seen that this year with MV and WSW. I think we support the club and players, and have given plenty of time to support the coach, but hurting the club over an re-appointment is hurting ourselves as much as the club and players.

      I expect the club will go for 12k members next season but will they find another thousand with the current collective mood being so low? Or with a membership price increase?

      Without the advisory board who is making the decisions about coaching positions? For the coaching position itself it has to be the CEO of Jets (Middleby) and HSG CEO (Palmer) at this point. Is this enough? Who outside of GVE is reviewing the season against benchmarks and any agreed KPI’s?

      • April 3rd 2013 @ 4:00pm
        Michael_Newcastle said | April 3rd 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        What he said.

        I’m certain their memberships will slide next season. Certain.

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