RUBEN Zadkovich understands he is only minding the seat for his good mate Jobe Wheelhouse but the high-octane midfielder is loving the responsibility of leading the Newcastle Jets - and it shows.
Zadkovich will wear the captain's armband for a fifth straight game when the Jets take on Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park today.
"I absolutely love it," Zadkovich said of the captaincy.
"It is something that comes naturally to me.
"I really feed off the added responsibility.
"I enjoy trying to lead the way for the young fellas. It feels like it gives me an extra gear."
Zadkovich, 26, has a reputation as a hothead and there were some who questioned the move by coach Gary van Egmond to bestow the captaincy on him.
But rather than a burden, the 'c' beside his name has been the catalyst for a spike in form, highlighted by a stunning strike to get the Jets back in the contest against Melbourne Victory five days ago.
"When you are captain you are a little more focused on leading by example and doing what is best for the team," he said.
"To be honest, it has been quite easy.
"The young fellas are open to listening and follow your lead.
"It is just about me being energetic, setting the tone, getting on the ball and showing the courage you need to go and try and win games.
"The young blokes follow suit."
Wheelhouse has resumed full-training from a knee injury and could be back for the clash against Adelaide at home on Saturday.
"Jobe is the captain of the team," Zadkovich said.
"He is one of my best mates and is a quality player and captain. I'm just doing a job while he is out.
"He has been giving me tips and advice. I just want to see him back on the field. I don't think either of us care about what is happening with the armband, we just want to win games."
One of nine players off contract, Zadkovich is keen to extend his stay in Newcastle but at present is more concerned with winning games.
"My form will dictate what happens with that," he said.
The Jets have recorded one win - 2-1 over Sydney FC on December 22 - from the past five outings and have slipped out of the top six for the first time.
They are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Heart's cross-town rivals - a performance that was one of their best despite returning nil.
"We felt like we played quite well the other night and probably should have got something out of it," Zadkovich said.
"In the end, the boy Rojas was in a class of his own.
"He scored two great goals, absolute bombs. You can't really do anything but hold your hand up and say 'top class'.
"If we put in a similar performance with a similar attitude tomorrow there is no reason why we can't get something out of it."
Fullback Scott Neville is expected to return from a tight hamstring and Adam Taggart is also a chance of starting in what is likely to be a similar side to the Victory loss.
The Jets came back from the dead twice - down 2-0 after five minutes and 3-2 with five minutes remaining - to share the points with the Heart at AAMI Park in round eight.
"Hopefully that was a one-off," Zadkovich said of the horror start.
"This time we are looking to make a bright start and really put the pressure on them in front of their home fans."
The Jets clash is not the only game in which Heart have given up a two-goal lead.
They led Wellington Phoenix 2-0 last round only to go down 3-2.
"We need to kill teams off," Heart midfielder and former Jets captain Matt Thompson said.
"When things are going well it is all good but when things hit a bit of a standstill we fade away.
"It is not a fitness thing. It is concentration and that mental strength we need to get back."
Socceroos Richie Garcia and Aziz Behich (rested) and central defensive duo Simon Colosimo and Patrick Gerhardt (both suspended) return to the side today.
"They are the type of players who when times are tough step up and be counted," Thompson said.