A flying Newcastle Jets are the best thing about the new A-Leagues season

A-League men, featured, football



“It’s not about being vindicated,” Newcastle Jets coach Arthur Papas told the press after his side had just smashed Wellington Phoenix 4-0 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.

Papas has certainly taken the long way around to avoid vindication. He was once considered one of the best young coaches in Australia, but that was more than a decade ago.

Since then he has coached in countries as far afield as India, Saudi Arabia and Japan just to get the chance of being a professional.

Carl Robinson, meanwhile, arrived in Australia having won just under 40 per cent of his games in charge during a five-year spell as coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer.

But Robinson has one thing Papas doesn’t – close to 400 games as a player in English football, including a couple of extremely brief stints in the Premier League.

The fact that we place more value on A-League coaches playing in Britain than honing their coaching abilities in NPL Victoria, as Papas did, says a lot about Australia as a football nation.

Ange Postecoglou is still the same coach at Celtic as he was in the A-League, only now he has mainstream Australian journalists venerating him because he’s making a name for himself overseas.

Ange Postecoglou is seen at full time

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

At any rate, one club is happy Robinson left the Newcastle Jets more than a year ago, and it’s certainly not the Western Sydney Wanderers.

You would have to think Robinson’s job is on very thin ice after Western Sydney’s latest 2-0 defeat to Macarthur, coming as it did on the back of their FFA Cup exit to APIA Leichhardt.

And if there was a metaphor for Western Sydney’s past week it might have something to do with old soccer triumphing over new football.

Ante Milicic knows plenty about the region, having spent the majority of his playing career with National Soccer League powerhouse Sydney United, where he also started his coaching career.

And for all the semantics about whether the Wanderers’ clash with Macarthur was a derby or not, the fact that Milicic and his players were visibly delighted to claim all three points does more for the fixture than any marketing slogans ever could.

Where to now for Western Sydney? The loss to the Bulls was their first of the season in the league, but more than just the results, it’s the lack of a tactical plan that surely has Wanderers fans worried.

Just under 9000 fans turned out in Parramatta on Saturday night, and they voiced their considerable disapproval at the full-time whistle.

The Wanderers now face three tough fixtures away from home, and the Australian Professional Leagues no doubt hope they collect some points along the way given they face Western United in a big New Year’s Day clash at CommBank Stadium.

We should probably stop imagining that big crowds are going to turn out on a regular basis to watch A-League Men’s in the foreseeable future, though.

One glance at the Big Bash League, where attendances are currently a fraction of what they used to be, suggests it will be a long time before Australians feel comfortable enough to turn up at domestic sporting fixtures in big numbers.

We need to break the habit of comparing everything in the A-League Men’s to the way things used to be and simply enjoy the football for what it is.

Which is easier said than done if your team is not losing, as Newcastle Jets fans know well.

The Jets have been the best thing about the new A-League Men’s season, and they’ll beat plenty more sides under a coach who is clearly a Postecoglou acolyte.

Yet Papas is no carbon copy. He’s one of the most tactically astute managers in the A-Leagues.

Teams like Newcastle and the Central Coast Mariners winning – who stunned Sydney FC 2-0 on Sunday – is good for the competition.

Let’s just hope the Jets can continue their flying start under the increasingly impressive Arthur Papas.

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