Clayton Zane knows better than most the change in expectations on the Newcastle Jets and the approach of opposition teams.
And the assistant coach believes the attack-focused Jets will handle the situation on both fronts across the course of the A-League season.
After their amazing revival from last to second place in 2017-18, Newcastle started with a 2-1 away loss to wooden spoon favourites Wellington on Sunday and are on the road against Adelaide on Friday night in a demanding short turnaround.
Zane expected the Reds, like Wellington, to sit back against the Jets and counterattack. After scoring 57 goals last season, Newcastle left behind two wooden spoons in three years to stamp themselves as one of the league’s most dangerous squads.
For Zane, the longest-serving coach at the club, it was a change he was enjoying.
“It’s nice to turn up to play an away match and know definitely your team is going to try to play on the front foot and know teams are probably going to sit back against you,” Zane said. “It’s a welcomed change and one the fans and staff probably haven’t seen too much of.
“So we’ve earned that right, that we can play on the front foot, that we can be a possession-based team and we can score a lot of goals, and we don’t want to back away from that.”
Zane started at the Jets as W-League coach in 2011 and has served as youth, assistant and caretaker A-League coach. He said expectations on the Jets were the highest he had seen but the losing start was not a concern.
“The players are their harshest critics,” he said. “With the performance we delivered, that was a game that we needed to pick up three points in and it basically came down to finishing.
“But teams know who we are, they know what we’re about and they are going to try to make things difficult for us, but we feel over 27 rounds we can handle that pressure and expectations from the public.”
Adelaide started with a 1-1 draw at home against Sydney and have the benefit of two extra days recovery. Zane, though, said the Jets were up for the challenge.
“We always knew it was what others would perceive to be a difficult draw but we welcome that,” he said. “We knew Wellington is a difficult place to go and we knew the type of football they were going to put on, which would be a defensive display and they’d try to hold out for as long as they could, and Adelaide are not too dissimilar.”
“They are built on their defensive structure. They’ve got a German coach big on discipline, so we’re going to have to be really proactive and we’re going to see a lot of that this season, where teams sit in against us and we’re going to have to be good enough to break them down.
“We showed very good signs with some of the combinations that we can do that, now it’s just putting those final few touches in and around the penalty area.”
He said Ben Kantarovski (hamstring) “was ticking all the boxes” and could return to the squad after not travelling to Wellington.
Zane expected Adelaide’s depleted attack to impact on their tactics.
“They have a few injury concerns,” he said.
“[Baba] Diawara is obviously out, [George] Blackwood didn’t play last game and I think [Ryan] Kitto is the other one, so they are missing a few attacking players and they are probably built on their defensive structure.
“They remain very disciplined and play very narrow defensively and make it hard for you to play between the lines, so we expect them to be a counter-attacking team, but also we haven’t got too much intelligence on them.
“We haven’t seen a lot of their pre-season games and with the injuries that they’ve got, it’s very hard to know who they will put out and who will be available.
“But we always want to play front-half football and play on the front foot, and nothing really changes for us.
“That attacking intent that we have, we’re going to try to showcase that in every game.”