FIT-again attacking midfielder James Brown believes he paid the price for pushing too hard to get back quickly after ankle surgery but is now focused on making 2013 a fresh start to his career in Newcastle.
Brown was named yesterday in an extended 22-man squad for the round-15 match against second-placed Adelaide tomorrow at Hunter Stadium.
The game is likely to be the third for Brown in the Jets' first team since being dropped to youth league and having a cortisone injection in his troublesome ankle.
He played only three minutes off the bench last Friday against Victory then 22 against the Heart on Monday in the Jets' losing double-header in Melbourne.
Before that, he had strung together six starts in the A-League after his recovery from surgery but failed to produce the form that made him one of the hottest properties in the competition while at Gold Coast in 2011-12.
The 22-year-old said lingering pain in his ankle had contributed to his below-par performances and he had felt the pressure of expectation.
"I don't like to make excuses, but the ankle hasn't helped my cause," he said. "It's hurt my game and my confidence a little, not being able to move how I like out there."
However, he said the pain had all but disappeared since an injection two weeks ago and he was keen to put his best foot forward.
"It feels a lot better now. It's settled right down," he said. "Hopefully I'm getting back to full fitness in the next couple of weeks. We'll see how it goes.
"I feel a lot freer out there and I feel a lot fitter, too."
He said he had worked hard to get back after the surgery and "felt it was the right time to come back, but looking back now I think it was a little too soon".
Keen to put the frustrating start to his time in Newcastle behind him, Brown was looking at the new year as a chance to start again.
"It's almost halfway through the season and I haven't really had much game time and I haven't scored any goals," he said. "The way I see it, I haven't been doing my job, the one I was brought down here to do.
"But it's a new year, the body feels pretty good, so I just want to start fresh and see how I go."
Despite the losses in Melbourne, Brown said the eighth-placed Jets had shown they were close to turning around their fortunes.
"We didn't do too badly, the kind of football we played in Melbourne," he said. "Obviously the results didn't go our way, but there was some confidence there for us. If we can tighten up at the back, it will help a lot because we always seem to get a couple of goals."
Captain Jobe Wheelhouse, returning from a knee injury, and defender Dominik Ritter, who missed the Heart game due to hamstring stiffness, were named in the squad.
Newcastle-bred Adelaide defender Nigel Boogaard will miss the game with a minor hamstring strain.