The worst kept managerial secret in the A-League finally was revealed on Monday, in a major coup for the embattled Newcastle Jets.
One of Australian football’s youngest and sharpest minds, Arthur Papas, was appointed as first team coach for the next two seasons.
“It’s an honour for me to be the manager of the Newcastle Jets,” Papas said.
“It’s a wonderful story, having been part of the Jets almost ten years ago and to be coming back here now as manager to lead a club desperate to improve. I’m incredibly excited to work here.
“At the moment there is a lot of work happening behind the scenes but the overall aim is always to make our supporters happy, and to do that we need to proceed with a recognisable style of play, a team that plays without fear to attack and a team that resonates with such a hard-working community.”
At only 41 years of age, Papas has already had a nomadic coaching career in Australia, India and Japan.
His time in Japan under the tutelage of legendary Australian coach Ange Postecoglou is where Papas finally started to get the recognition from the wider public that his coaching talent richly deserved.
Like his mentor, I would be expecting Papas’ Jets to play in a similar free-flowing attacking style.
They will pin the opposition back in their own half with a very high, stressful-on-the-body press while also not being scared to start an attack by carrying the ball out from the back.
Papas will demand flexibility of his group in their usual pre-determined playing positions rather than the normal discipline and rigidness associated with them. Expect the Jets’ wide players to see a lot more of the ball as Newcastle will look to stretch the pitch.
Papas has however come in at a time of unrest for the struggling Jets as the club is still desperately trying to find a new owner after Martin Lee was forcibly removed and the club was taken over by a consortium of other A-League investors.
During Lee’s tenure, the Jets accumulated an eye-watering $13 million of debt with over 70 creditors owed money – ranging from Football Australia all the way down to past and current coaches and players and even local restaurants.
With finances incredibly tight, the Jets appointed local Craig Deans to the senior coaching position this season.
Newcastle had a promising start with the majority of their fixtures scheduled in NSW for the first quarter of the season, before spectacularly falling away and managing to avoid the infamous wooden spoon on the last fixture of the season.
Deans’ tumultuous tenure ended with his resignation and this was followed by another hammer blow when beloved CEO Lawrie McKinna left his post after five years in charge.
The former mayor of Gosford, McKinna was one of the A-League’s most respected and popular directors who used his own money to help try and keep the ailing club alive.
The Jets have already released nine players this off-season: Nigel Boogaard, Ali Abbas, Roy O’Donovan, Matt Millar, Jack Simmons, Luka Prso, Ramy Najjarine, Liridon Krasniqi and Syahrian Abimanyu.
There are several more, including veterans Jason Hoffman and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, that could yet join the exodus as Newcastle embarks on a complete rebuild.
Papas will need to be smart with his shoe-string budget and look to bring in loan signings, discarded rough diamonds and promote from within.
So far, he has shown a good eye for recruitment, with three young talents in Dane Ingham, Dominic Costanzo and Cameron Devlin signed, and I would expect his foray into youth signings to continue in the coming months.
The Hunter region has long been established as one of Australian football’s historical hotbeds, with many internationals as well as NSL and A-League players coming from the area.
Arthur Papas will need to get his Jets off the tarmac and into the skies to avoid the many obstacles they will face on and off the field in the upcoming seasons.
The Jets might not hit Mach 2, but with Papas in the cockpit, the Jets’ squadron will hope to fly its colours high and proud for the success-starved people in the Hunter.