MONDAY morning is catch-up time for the Newcastle Jets.
Young players relive nights out on the town, opinions and observations are made on world events, family men trade stories about their kids. The conversation is always lively.
Eventually the topic turns to football.
For the Jets, one man, striker Labinot Haliti, is the aficionado when it comes to matters on the round ball.
‘‘When I need to get results from overseas – the Polish league, Russian league, second division in Spain ... wherever it might be – Labi has them,’’ Jets coach Gary van Egmond said.
‘‘He is just a real football lover. He lives and breathes it.
‘‘If you asked any of the players who loves the game the most, they would say Labi.
‘‘I think that comes out in the way he trains and the way he approaches his games.’’
Haliti has his own explanation for his obsession with all things football.
‘‘Everyone has a job, this is mine,’’ he said.
‘‘I am not interested in politics, I am interested in sport. I try to keep in touch with what is going on around the world.’’
Haliti’s passion was never more evident than when he scored the go-ahead goal in the Jets’ dramatic come-from-behind 3-1 triumph over a Harry Kewell-led Melbourne Victory at Ausgrid Stadium on Saturday night.
The wiry front-man’s power-packed header at the back post had only just crossed the goal line and he had ripped off his playing shirt, hurdled the advertising boards and launched himself into the Squadron supporters group.
It was pure elation.
‘‘It is a moment I can’t put into words,’’ Haliti offered.
‘‘I think it was the importance of the game. There were 17,000 people in the stadium, we came back from 1-0 down. It was the right moment.’’
There were similar celebrations when Haliti sealed a 2-0 win over Perth Glory in round six last season, a week before Nathan Tinkler took ownership.
Ditto two years ago after he stunned the Melbourne Victory faithful at Etihad Stadium with an 87th minute equaliser in his return match for the Jets from a spell overseas.
You can go right back to the inaugural season when a then teenage Haliti scored a 35-metre bomb against the New Zealand Knights – a strike that was later rated No.4 in the goal-of-the-year competition – and dispersed of his shirt before going to rejoice with the club’s hard-core fans.
Each goal celebration has been met with a mandatory yellow card.
‘‘In hindsight it is not the right thing when you get booked for it,’’ Haliti conceded.
‘‘It is hard to describe. I hope I show on the field what it means to me to represent this city and the people.
‘‘This club gave me a chance and made me who I am today. I’m lucky to be a part of it.’’
Van Egmond has no problem with Haliti enjoying the moment, but he is concerned about the unnecessary card accumulation, despite the striker having not missed a game due to suspension in his career.
‘‘I’m happy for him to enjoy the goal, but am not so keen on the yellow card,’’ the coach said.
‘‘Usually the way to restrain that is by the hip pocket and a fine.’’
Haliti’s header against the Victory was his first goal for the season and took his tally to 13 in 84 games for the Jets.
Like all strikers, he would like to be more productive.
‘‘Obviously goals are important,’’ he said.
‘‘As long as you keep doing the right things. Keep it simple and work hard, things happen.
‘‘It is not just about scoring goals, it is about doing a job for the team.’’
Under van Egmond the Jets are playing a high pressing game that requires the front men to chase and harass.
‘‘The type of game we want to play relies on everyone working hard and it starts with me at the point,’’ Haliti said.
‘‘If I am doing a decent job at the front it allows the boys in the middle to come up and press.’’
With big-name strikers Francis Jeffers and Michael Bridges waiting in the wings, Haliti’s spot, or anyone’s for that matter, is not guaranteed.
‘‘It is horses for courses,’’ van Egmond said.
But the coach has certainly been impressed with the Haliti’s contribution.
‘‘If you told Labi he had to play in goals, he would say, ‘OK who has some gloves, let’s go’,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘He would do anything for the team and is being very effective.
‘‘He is starting to bring more to his game, not just with regards to pressing. He is holding the ball up better, he is getting in better positions to link up with the midfield or get in behind opposition defences.’’
A former refugee, Haliti is in his second stint with the Jets.
A foundation player, he headed to Europe after season two, missing the Jets’ championship win, and returned four games into the 2009-10 season.
Life could have been so much different for the now 26-year-old.
Haliti’s family fled Kosovo in 1999 and settled in Sydney, where his mother Zana, father Sam and brothers Lorik, 22, and Edon, 32, still reside.
‘‘My parents wanted to give myself and two brothers a better future in a better environment,’’ Haliti said.
‘‘My two brothers have gone through university and I have gone down my path.
‘‘We don’t take anything for granted and appreciate everything we do.
‘‘My parents wanted a better future for us. We have made something out of it but it is not finished yet.’’
Haliti is one of a host of Jets off contract this season.
Van Egmond has already begun planning ahead and will step up that process in the new year.
Haliti, who met his lawyer girlfriend Karen Piwinski in Newcastle in 2005, has no intention of leaving.
‘‘I’m only young, but you know when you feel right,’’ he said.
‘‘When you are happy off the field, you are happy on it.
‘‘I have said all along, this is my home.
‘‘This is where I made my name and this is the club which gave me a chance.
‘‘I don’t like to think about anything else. Hopefully if I work hard, try to improve the things I need to improve, the rest will take care of itself.’’
Keeping the coach up to speed on overseas scores can’t hurt either.