MARK Jones says he has no regrets after he was sacked as Newcastle Jets coach on Sunday – other than being denied an opportunity to work with a stronger squad next season.
Jets owner Martin Lee terminated Jones seven months into a two-season deal, after a disastrous form slump that culminated in Newcastle collecting the A-League wooden spoon on Saturday.
Newcastle’s 2-0 final-round loss to Sydney – their sixth on the trot – confirmed they would finish in the competition cellar.
Jones follows Scott Miller as the second coaching casualty of Lee’s 10-month tenure as Jets owner.
The 50-year-old said, with the benefit of hindsight, he “wouldn’t do anything differently”, but he was disappointed he would not get a chance to assemble a more competitive roster and push for a finals berth next season.
“For me, there’s not that much that needs to change, other than adding a bit of quality to the squad,’’ Jones told the Newcastle Herald.
“We dominated some of the best teams in the league, we played an entertaining brand of football, we played out from the back and we got into threatening positions, but too often we couldn’t convert our chances.
“If you give the squad an injection of quality and finesse, we’d be exactly where we want to be, in the top six.
“And that for me is the disappointing thing. Next season the owner will spend some money and the results will improve, and I would love to have helped build a stronger team and coach it.
“If I’m the person who has to pay the price, so be it. But I don’t agree with that.’’
Jones was Newcastle’s ninth coach in the 11 seasons since the A-League kicked off, and their fifth head tactician in the past four campaigns.
The past three coaches, Phil Stubbins, Miller and Jones, have all been sacked after one year.
Asked if the club needed to a long-term coach to provide stability, Jones replied: “I agree with that 100 per cent. That’s my No.1 disappointment – that I won’t get a chance to be that person.’’
In a statement, the Jets said pre-season training for 2017-18 would kick off in late June and “it is intended that a new head coach will be in place before this time”.
Assistant coach Clayton Zane will oversee training before the playing group breaks for their annual leave in early May.
In the club statement, the Jets thanked Jones and “wish him well for the future”.
Newcastle won five of 27 games under Jones, and conceded 53 goals, the most in the competition.
Yet until round 21, they were in contention for the top six. They then endured a club-record six-game losing streak and conceded 19 unanswered goals, a competition record.
Asked if he felt let down by his players, Jones denied that was the case. He had no complaints about their levels of effort, saying they “ran their arses off” against Sydney.
He said there were “a pile of reasons” that contributed to the team’s late-season tailspin after being promisingly placed mid-season.
But he said all season long, Newcastle were competing against teams with bigger budgets and more dynamic strike forces.
The Jets have failed to make the finals in their past seven seasons, and their three wooden spoons are the most by any club.