The Lowedown: Newcastle Jets well placed to fly up ladder

Dynamic duo: Dimi Petratos and Ronny Vargas have added a new dimension to the Newcastle Jets' attack. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Dynamic duo: Dimi Petratos and Ronny Vargas have added a new dimension to the Newcastle Jets' attack. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

There is, I'm sure, an official label for someone who develops a feeling of angst, bordering on paranoia, when things are going so smoothly that they are sure a catastrophe lurks just around the corner.

They have given themselves every chance of improving considerably.

I'm also sure that said condition affects a lot of football fans across the globe, but geez, I reckon, a host of die-hard Jets supporters are on high alert right now.

I start this paragraph touching wood, fingers crossed, wearing my lucky undies, trying not to tempt fate, so here goes. The Jets have had the most settled and productive pre-season in recent memory.

Okay, it's out there now, and I apologise profusely if there is any late drama.

We have witnessed the appointment of an experienced coach in Ernie Merrick, well before the start of the world’s longest pre-season.

The club’s new signings have reported for training early, in good nick, and ready for a fresh challenge.

There have been no major surgeries in the off-season and no serious injuries in the countdown to the opening round.

Owner, Martin Lee, has provided finance for a marquee player and the club’s hierarchy has sought out a genuine No.10 to add some creativity and flair. That man is Ronny Vargas, a 30-year-old Venezuelan international, who has been plying his trade in Greece in recent times.

He has arrived in very good shape, injury free, with his wife, and both seem very happy with their first impressions of life in Newcastle.

In turn, the first impressions of Vargas have given the club cause for much optimism.

Two good feet, an ability to score from range with either, dead-ball capacity, a clever football brain aligned with the swagger of self belief and an excellent touch with his passing in tight areas, suggest an impressive CV could prove accurate.

Communication, so often an underestimated hindrance to how  foreign players settle, shouldn't be a problem with Vargas comfortable with English.

Merrick's Scottish brogue will, I'm sure, be understood quite quickly. Lawrie McKinna's, potentially a bigger mountain to climb!

And should a combination of Scottish and Venezuelan vernacular not quite match up, the Greek heritage of the Petratos clan, Dimi in particular, will be handy, given Vargas's time in that country, especially for a hidden instruction on-field, on game day . 

I'm very much looking forward to watching Vargas, and feel his contribution will be vital to the Jets’ season. We welcome Ronny and his wife to the club, and to the city, and wish them well.

As indeed we do to all the new players. 

Of the newcomers, who are likely to start in the first team, we pretty much know what we are going to get.

Daniel Georgievski will provide strength, aggression, experience and thrust from either of the fullback roles, particularly with Andrew Nabbout and Dimi Petratos keen to cut inside, leaving big corridors for over-lapping fullbacks .

Nikolai Topor-Stanley returns to the club a smarter, wiser, more intense professional than when he departed. It's hard to imagine that he is as quick at 31 as he was at 26, but he retains good athleticism, and that combined with the experience garnered in recent seasons, should see him and Nigel Boogaard build a formidable partnership.

Roy O'Donovan will provide aggression, courage, work ethic, and a hunger for goals that the team lacked last season. He will also provide a decent, and often underestimated, splash of quality and craft. His runs are clever at times, unselfish when necessary and his understanding with Luis Garcia at the Mariners last season, suggests he will relish playing with a clever passer like Vargas.

Of the new boys we have seen before, I've left Dimi Petratos until last for a reason, and that's because, in my mind, he has the most scope for improvement.

We know what the others are capable of at around 30 years of age, that's why they were brought to the club.

Petratos at 24, having been a young prodigy at Sydney FC, and then a good player at Brisbane among the McKays and Broichs of this league, would surely be looking at the Jets squad, knowing he can be a real key player, and the man who makes a difference. Can shoot, can dribble, and should be peaking physically. I'm looking for Dimi to concentrate, believe, and use the various qualities of Vargas, O'Donovan and Nabbout to bring out the best in his own game. If he does that, he will thrive, and the Jets will prosper.

"How will the Jets go this season Lowey? " has been the most often asked question during winter.

I don't know for sure, but I can say they have given themselves every chance of improving considerably.

It's hard to see Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory being far away from a grand-final repeat.

The Wanderers have recruited well, but lost their coach last week.

Melbourne City are unsettled, new coach , Fornaroli injured, and Cahill another year older.

Brisbane have seen some key players depart, and look a touch on the veteran side.

Perth are looking unpredictable as usual. Can Castro star again and will Xavi Torres's form prove as foreboding as his mega impressive name?

Adelaide, excellent in pre-season, are rebuilding under a new coach.

Wellington, having lost Bonevacia and Barbarouses, are in the same boat.

And I very much doubt the Mariners, having recruited some key position experience, will be pushovers for anyone, as we may well witness on Saturday .

Let's get started. Fingers crossed, it's a more enjoyable ride this time around.


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