Replacing fan favourites huge assignment for HSG

EVERY year, at every professional sporting club in the world, players come and go.

Some might move on, seeking greener pastures.

Some get told their services are no longer required. Others opt to hang up the boots.

Inevitably, such traffic impacts on supporters, who develop emotional attachments to the men wearing their team’s colours.

But in general, fans find it easier to accept the departure of a crowd favourite if they are confident the club will sign a superior replacement.

And this is where the Newcastle Jets may struggle to put a positive spin on yesterday’s decision to release Tarek Elrich, Jeremy Brockie and Ali Abbas.

Elrich, Brockie and Abbas are players of proven A-League quality.

They are also popular with the Novocastrian faithful, especially Elrich, who is the club’s most-capped player and was the sole remaining member of Newcastle’s grand final triumph four years ago.

If Jets management could guarantee that they will recruit three players better than Elrich, Brockie and Abbas, fans would have little cause for complaint.

But therein lies the problem.

Faith in Hunter Sports Group’s acumen has been shaken by events of the past 18 months.

This is the organisation that signed marquee player Jason Culina, on crutches, to a $2.65million deal, then tried to sack him when he broke down at training.

The same organisation that signed coach Branko Culina to a four-year deal, then punted him before the first season kicked off, for reasons still unexplained.

The same organisation that paid Chris Payne around $200,000 for 10 minutes of A-League game-time before he was sent packing.

And, of course, the same organisation that tried to renege on a 10-year A-League licence.

Now they would like us to believe they can assemble a squad to challenge for the title, which will take some doing, given that they have missed the play-offs for the past two seasons.

This is the challenge facing Jets coach Gary van Egmond, and his ability to kick goals on the transfer market in coming months will be as crucial as any tactical expertise he offers on the pitch.

Van Egmond can obviously coach. In his first two seasons at the Jets they finished third and as champions, which looks good on any CV.

With regard to recruiting, however, his track record is hit and miss.

He has an eye for outstanding young talent, as evidenced by the likes of James Holland, Song Jin-hyung and Ben Kantarovski.

But other high-profile signings from overseas, including Edmundo Zura, Jesper Hakansson, Jorge Drovandi and Donny de Groot, were expensive flops.

Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha have shown how much difference class imports can make to an A-League side.

There must be players of similar standard floating around in various leagues across the globe.

It is a matter of identifying them and agreeing to their financial demands.

But with any signing, there has to be an element of guesswork.

Jets officials are no doubt confident they can adequately fill the boots of Elrich, Brockie and Abbas.

Fans are entitled to say they will believe it when they see it.

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