It really is a crazy, wild rollercoaster ride of a time being a Newcastle Jets fan in 2020.
The heads of Markus Babbel and Marko Kurz were very close to the coaching chopping block but Newcastle beat both the Wanderers and the Victory to the punch by sacking Ernie Merrick on 6 January.
Things were not great, but injuries and the smallest budget in the A-League should have bought the canny coach a little more time. The news was definitely a shock to many of the Novocastrian faithful.
Injuries to inspirational captain Nigel Boogaard, former Premier League stalwart Wes Hoolahan and Panamanian Abdiel Arroyo were major handicaps to any real progression on the field of play.
The Newcastle Jets’ depth was tested and found wanting. The likes of Angus Thurgate, Patrick Langlois and Dimitri Petratos, clearly good players, were either played in unfamiliar positions or maybe not quite ready for the full-time rigours of the A-League.
The situation with Irish import Bobby Burns was a frustrating one for fans and surely the player too. The reasons for his limited game time were a mystery. Rumours of him being too slow and unable to handle the heat were there in the background.
Why bring in an import and a genuine left-sided fullback and play Johnny Koutroumbis there, who was clearly not a good fit? Was this the straw that broke the camel’s back, and brought Merrick’s tenure to an end? We may never know.
Life goes on and the rollercoaster continues. We signed a left fullback from Brisbane, Connor O’Toole. He is a good acquisition as Burns is only on a loan deal and left backs don’t exactly grow on trees. Wes Hoolahan was named in the extended squad for the Round 17 clash at home against newcomers Western United.
As it turns out, the Irish Messi was spared the extreme heat and the frustrations of a nil-all draw that the Jets should have won comfortably. The bigger news was the signing of Roy O’Donovan. This was truly bizarre and not expected at all. It is just what’s required, though. Roy O’Donovan equals goals.
Craig Deans is performing very well as caretaker coach. The football is good, it’s just the results that have been otherwise.
With Boogaard now back and playing well, Koutroumbis playing in a more familiar role and Nikolai Topor-Stanley performing as well as he ever has in a Newcastle shirt, our back three look solid.
Right fullback Matthew Millar has been a model of consistency and Burns is now holding down the left back position, and has added to the team both in attack as well as defence. With Wes Hoolahan back soon, let’s say off the bench against the local derby rivals Central Coast, plus O’Donovan spearheading the attack the excitement is building again for the fans.
Can the season be salvaged? It would be a big ask to make the six, but considering that none of the teams above, bar Sydney, are proving that consistent, it would not be impossible.
Newcastle are definitely much better than their current position and I’m no longer contemplating the wooden spoon. With soon-to-be new coach Carl Robinson on board plus an almost full squad, this weekend’s F3 Derby should be an absolute cracker.
The Coasties are in a slump, they’re shipping goals for fun and Roy O’Donovan is champing at the bit to add to his goal tally against his former employers. In fact with Arroyo, O’Donovan and Petratos as an attacking three, Jets fanatics could well be in for a feast of goals. They are certainly due, that’s for sure.
If you haven’t ventured down to Turton Road for a while, come along for the original derby. The F3 Derby. Jump on the rollercoaster, it could be one hell of a ride.