It has now been confirmed that former championship-winning coach Gary van Egmond will return to the helm of the Newcastle Jets.
Van Egmond has been the front-runner to replace Branko Culina since the veteran coach was sacked four days before the opening game of the A-League.
Click on the image below for more pictures from the Newcastle Jets media conference.
The new coach has confirmed the Jets have also agreed to terms with English striker Francis Jeffers, subject to a medical.
Hear what happened at the media conference today.
The Newcastle Herald earlier reported that Jets officials were tight-lipped last night, but the Herald understood that only a few minor details stood in the way of the announcement today.
Van Egmond has resigned from his position at the Australian Institute of Sport, which he has held for the past three years, and will rejoin his wife, Annette, 18-year-old twins Emily and Max and 19-year-old Laura at their family home in Eleebana.
Interim coach Craig Deans, the youth team boss, is tipped to be part of van Egmond’s senior staff, but it is unclear if former assistant Mark Jones will be offered a role.
Unlike Culina, who was in the first year of a four-year contract extension, van Egmond is likely to be offered a two-year deal.
In a further boost, the Jets are believed to be close to finalising a deal with former Everton and Arsenal star Francis Jeffers about a return to Newcastle.
Jeffers has been without a club since he was released by Scottish Premier League outfit Motherwell in June and could be in Newcastle as early as next week.
The 30-year-old striker inspired the Jets to a seven-game winning streak during a nine-game guest stint last season.
In what already shapes as a mouth-watering local derby, Van Egmond’s first game back in charge of the Jets will be the clash against the Central Coast Mariners at Ausgrid Stadium on Sunday.
The Jets scored a thrilling 1-0 win over their neighbours in the 2007-08 grand final to claim the region’s first championship.
Defender Tarek Elrich, goalkeeper Ben Kennedy and new captain Jobe Wheelhouse are the remaining players from that squad.
Ryan Griffiths played at Newcastle United in the old national league when van Egmond was the assistant to Ian Crook.
The 30-year-old striker, who was named yesterday in an Australian-based Socceroos squad to attend a two-day camp next week, confirmed that his brother Joel was also interested in a homecoming but doubted it would be before the transfer window opened on January 15.
Joel is coming off contract at Beijing Guoan at the end of the Chinese Super League season in December, but the club are unlikely to agree to an early release to enable him to join the Jets before the A-League’s initial registration deadline on October 31.
The 32-year-old striker scored for Beijing, who are second on the table, in a 4-1 win over Changchun Yatai on Saturday to take his season tally to 10 goals in 25 games.
Sydney FC are also understood to be keen on the 2007-08 Golden Boot and Johnny Warren Medal winner.
‘‘I know Joel is interested in returning to Newcastle,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘It depends on what the Jets offer. For him to leave Beijing the contract would have to be for a couple of years. I don’t think he would be interested in something short term.’’
Ryan Griffiths and midfielder Ben Kantarovski were the only Jets representatives in a 31-man squad, which is a mixture of Olyroos and senior players, to work under national team boss Holger Osieck in Sydney on Monday and Tuesday.
The last of the in-form attacker’s five appearances for the Socceroos was in a friendly against Singapore in Singapore in 2008.
‘‘It is always good to be back in the mix, but I won’t be happy until I put that [Socceroos] shirt back on,’’ he said.
‘‘It is good to be noticed. It was hard to get recognition when I was playing in China.
‘‘That was one of the factors when I decided to come back to Australia and the Jets towards the end of last season.’’
The training squad includes six players, Mitch Nichols, goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos, Erik Paartalu, Ivan Franjic, Luke Brattan and Matt Smith, from champions Brisbane.