A-League: Brazilian striker feels right at home at Jets | photos

WARM WELCOME: Jets' new Brazilian striker Jair at the club's Ray Watt Oval training base on Tuesday. Picture: Simone De Peak
WARM WELCOME: Jets' new Brazilian striker Jair at the club's Ray Watt Oval training base on Tuesday. Picture: Simone De Peak

BRAZILIAN Jair is confident that Newcastle and the A-League will be the perfect environment for the striker to take his game to a new level.

The Jets’ championship hopes might just hinge on it.

Jair inked a one-year contract on Tuesday after arriving in the city with wife Fernando and young daughters Naomi and Lavinia on Sunday.

The 30-year-old joins the Jets after a difficult season, on and off the field, in China at Yanbian Funde.

“In my last experience in China, my family stayed in Brazil,” he said. “I was alone. It was so difficult for me. Here they come and arrive with me. I am so happy. I think Australia will help me improve my life as a father, as a player and as a person.”

Before moving to China, Jair, who speaks confident English, had two productive seasons in the K-League at Jeonnam Dragons, netting 26 goals in 55 games and has been a regular goal-scorer throughout his career.

“I am an attacker. I love to find goals,” Jair said. “The last five seasons I have played as winger, second striker and also as a striker. It doesn’t matter for me.”

Jair’s versatility along with his goal-scoring and work rate most impressed Jets coach Ernie Merrick.

“He played several years in the Korean League and the K League is very tough to score goals,” Merrick said. “He scored a barrel load of goals there. He has scored goals in Japan ... I’m really looking forward to how he can combine with the likes of Ronnie (Vargas) and Dimi (Petratos) to create goal-scoring opportunities. The Chinese second tier is very defensive. There is not a lot of support for strikers. He was particularly keen on playing up front in a team which has good service and a real commitment to attacking football. He did his homework on us and liked what he saw.”

Jair, who hasn’t played a competitive game since May and is at least four weeks from peak fitness, will cover for the suspended Roy O’Donovan until round nine.

“I had two months without games, but we have time, six weeks before the season. I will be 100 per cent,” he said.

As well as a goal-scorer, Merrick wanted an experienced player willing to toil hard without the ball.

“I like workers,” Merrick said. “We discovered that Pato (Rodriguez) was not a worker. Ronny is a worker. We can’t carry someone who doesn’t do the graft. We are a hard-working blue-collar team. Everyone who joins has to be able to do a job both defensively to recover the ball and in attack.”

Jair’s signature leaves three places available. Former Victory flyer Mitch Austin has been training with the club and will play in a friendly against Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval on Wednesday.

“It is very important that we score goals this year if we are going to achieve anything,” Merrick said. “We have lost a couple of goal-scorers and we are bringing more in. Jair is a key signing for us. Mitch is doing a really good job. We haven’t finalised that yet, but he is doing everything asked of him. When we are trialing players we see how coachable they are. If I can’t influence the way they play they are not going to improve. Mitch is proving to be very coachable. 

Merrick said ensuring Jair was happy off the pitch was a big part of the picture.

“It took an extra week or two to get him here and he was able to bring his wife and two young children with him,” Merrick said. “To us, it is very important that his family is settled and happy. It is very important that we get that side of things right. That is one of the reasons players come to this club.”