IT has been Mark Jones’s dream job since the A-League kicked off, and now the chance to coach his home-town team has become a reality.
The former Toronto-Awaba junior was unveiled on Friday as the Newcastle Jets’ new head tactician, with another born-and-bred Novocastrian, Clayton Zane, as his assistant.
Both have signed two-season contracts after the abrupt dismissal of Scott Miller three weeks ago.
“From the club’s point of view, it was important to get a coach and assistant coach in who actually understood Newcastle, knew the squad, knew the town, understood what the town needs and respect the community,’’ Jets chief executive McKinna said.
Jones, 50, played in the old national league with Newcastle Rosebud, Sydney Croatia, Marconi and Newcastle Breakers.
He has twice been assistant coach at the Jets, including during their 2007-08 grand final-winning campaign, as well as stints in supporting roles at Perth, Central Coast, Adelaide and in Asia.
He was coaching Adelaide’s W-League and youth team before securing his new position at the Jets.
“It’s obviously been something I’ve wanted for a long time,’’ Jones said of graduating to the top job.
“I’ve wanted to be an A-League head coach. I think that I can do well, so to be offered the A-League role in my own home town is obviously a magnificent opportunity.’’
Jones felt it was an advantage that both he and Zane, a former Socceroo, knew the “culture” of soccer in the region.
“I’ve always, whether we’re playing or coaching, believed that people from Newcastle can be as as good if not better than anyone in the country, and we’re here to show that,’’ he said.
Jones added that Newcastle’s championship triumph in season three of the A-League proved that anything was possible.
Zane, who was Newcastle’s caretaker coach during a 12-game stint in 2014, expressed similar sentiments about the value of local knowledge. “In terms of our philosophy, we’re both from this town and we both understand what the fans expect,’’ he said.
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Zane, who will remain at the helm for Saturday’s trial against Western Sydney Wanderers while Jones observes, was confident they would form "a good balance" working together.
"I'm there in full support of Mark, because in that role, it is a lonely position and you do need a very good support staff around you,'' he said.
Jones said he believed Newcastle had “a decent roster”, capable of reaching the play-offs for the first time in seven seasons.
“We’d like to make the top six, and we’d like to organise them technically and tactically so we’re a decent shot at that,’’ Jones said.
“Obviously we want to have a sound defence, and the foundation of that was set last year … but obviously to finish higher on the table, we need to score goals.
“The top six is realistic. Of course it’s realistic. It’s something that I’d like to achieve and I think we can.’’
Jones was reluctant to predict how long it would take for Newcastle to again challenge for a title.
“I can’t answer that question,’’ he said. “But what I can say is that we’ll go out each week and try to play that style of football, and try to help the players individually improve, so that we get collectively a team result that’s hopefully better.’’
Despite waiting almost a decade waiting for his opportunity, Jones never worried that it might pass him by.
“You’ve just got to stay in the game … keep impressing people and keep doing the job as best you can, and hopefully you get rewarded in the end,’’ he said.