NIKOLAI Topor-Stanley played a key role in the heart of defence when the Newcastle Jets last made the A-League finals seven years ago.
The towering stopper is now back at the Jets and won’t be satisfied until the club is again challenging for a title.
Topor-Stanley, 32, signed a two-year deal on Wednesday and along with captain Nigel Boogaard and Lachlan Jackson will be charged with correcting a defence that leaked 53 goals last season.
“Everyone knows Newcastle has great potential,” Topor-Stanley told the Herald on Wednesday. “The people are sports-mad and if you give them everything they will get behind you. That starts with ambition. That means not just being in the top six but winning it. That has to be the aim.”
Topor-Stanley’s signature follows that of attacker Dimi Petratos on Tuesday. They join proven striker Roy O’Donovan, Marston Medal winner Daniel Georgievski, New Zealand international keeper Glen Moss and emerging talents Kosta Petratos and Mario Shabow on the arrivals list. Two spots remain for visa players.
“As I stated when I arrived at the Jets we need to strengthen the squad and add experience, and Nikolai fits the job description 100 per cent,” coach Ernie Merrick said. “He is a skilful and uncompromising defender who will provide on-field leadership. The fact that Nikolai has played previously for the club is another bonus. He knows what to expect and what is needed at the Jets in order for us to make the finals.”
Topor-Stanley, whose Newcastle-born wife Kylie is expecting their first child, returns after a season at Dubai-based club Hutta.
“It’s our first child and I guess with the timing of it, the stars all aligned,” Topor-Stanley said. “I am happy to be back home. We will have plenty of support but I’m not coming back to take it easy and have a holiday. For me it is about winning and that will be my focus.”
Topor-Stanley partnered Ljubo Milicevic at the back in 2009-10 when the Jets finished sixth, before being knocked out in extra-time by Wellington Phoenix in the preliminary final.
He was player of the year in 2010-11 in a Jets side which conceded only 33 goals in 30 games but finished seventh.
The former Socceroo made 81 appearances for the Jets before linking with Western Sydney for their inaugural campaign in 2012-13.
In four years, he captained Wanderers to the 2014 Asian Champions League, three A-League grand final appearances, and the Premiers’ Plate in 2013.
“I am a much different player to when I was last in Newcastle,” he said. “Time has given me maturity and experience has opened my eyes to a lot of things that I can hopefully bring to the table for this team to be successful. You have to leave no stone unturned, especially in the pre-season, to really set yourself a platform for success. I lived five years of that at Western Sydney and I have seen first hand what hard work and dedication brings you.”
Topor-Stanley said the Wanderers were an example of what can be achieved.
“The sky is the limit if you have the right mindset,” he said. “It can’t be a handful of players it has to be everyone involved in the club to be the best you can be.”
Topor-Stanley had an “interesting time” in Dubai but was “glad for the experience”.
“I arrived a few games into the season and played every game bar one when I was suspended,” he said.
“You play during their winter so the temperatures aren’t in the 40s. It is manageable. You have teams who fork out unlimited amounts of money for the best talent. Even the local players have plenty of talent but tactically it is different.”