The Jets have had a great season.
The Jets have had a great season.

Jets can build A-League dynasty

NEWCASTLE fans should dare to dream - not just this season but next year and beyond.

That's the message from Jets boss Ernie Merrick, as he plots the finale to this campaign and also the encore next season.

Determined to prevent injuries and late-season nerves from turning Newcastle's brilliant campaign into a damp squib, Merrick wants a big-club mentality to take hold at a club with supporters starved of success for a decade.

The former Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix boss extended his contract by another year this week, a mutual statement of faith in the remarkable resurrection project led by Merrick and CEO Lawrie McKinna.

 

Whatever happens in Friday night's semi-final with Melbourne City, the Jets want to keep climbing.

"We have to plan for that, plan to be a team that can actually challenge for the title," said Merrick. "We should have high expectations, and the supporters should have high expectations of us.

"We want to sustain the competitiveness we've shown this season, and push for the finals at least. But on top of that we should aim to do better every year.

"There's no point in having one good season and settling for a return to the doldrums after that. Retention of players is the first step, and then adding to what we've got.

"Nigel Boogaard re-signed this week for next season and that takes us to 18. Lawrie, (football manager) Joel Griffiths and I have been working on this for months to improve what we've got and keep building the squad."

In the immediate term, Merrick scoffs at the idea that the win over Sydney FC on March 3 was effectively the Jets' grand final. Andrew Nabbout transferred to Japan straight after, Roy O'Donovan was suspended and captain Boogaard's season appeared to end with a fractured tibia and torn calf muscle sustained in the game.

But last weekend's 8-2 blitz of the Mariners reignited Newcastle's belief - augmented by the news that Boogaard will be involved in the final stages of the season.

Jets fans have plenty to cheer about.
Jets fans have plenty to cheer about.

"After that win over Sydney we lost senior players in three key positions," Merrick said. "It took a while to come up with the right combination of players in the right positions in response, but the win over the Mariners proved we're back on track.

"People say it was an easy win over a team almost bottom, but we played really well, really good football. Every team has a flat spot at some point in the season but we're back to our best.

"Ronnie Vargas is close to hitting full fitness, and Boogs will be in the 16-man squad. At the start of this week I thought he was 60:40 against, but he started full training this week and surprised me.

"We played an intra-club game on Friday, to replicate the timetable of this week, and he pulled up well from that. Maybe he won't start but he'll be involved and play a significant role."



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