Ernie Merrick is the new man at the helm of the Jets. What does he have to do to turn Newcastle into a finals contender?
After moments of promise, the Jets’ 2016/17 Hyundai A-League season totally derailed in its last three months; they lost eight and won none of their last ten games.
That included six defeats in a row to finish the campaign, during which they failed to score a single goal from open play.
That has to hurt.
One of Merrick’s first jobs will be to restore confidence in the shell-shocked players who went through that disastrous period.
After seven straight seasons without finals football, he also has to make his men believe they can make the top six.
Find quality imports
Mariners striker Roy O’Donovan will travel up the F3 to link up with the Jets, joining Wayne Brown and Aleksandr Kokko at the club.
That leaves two visa spots to fill.
An attacking midfielder and top-quality defender would be high on the shopping list.
Merrick has a good recent record of finding classy imports; it was he who brought Albert Riera, Roly Bonevacia and Marco Rossi to Wellington.
As well as O’Donovan, Kosta Petratos and Daniel Georgievski will also join the club next season, bringing the squad to 16.
Decisions have to be made on a number of off-contract players, including veterans Ben Kantarovski, Daniel Mullen and Labinot Haliti.
Andrew Hoole is also rumoured to be Europe-bound.
That leaves Merrick with plenty of space on his roster, so finding the right players is key.
With Ben Kennedy departing, the Jets also need a second goalkeeper to join Jack Duncan.
One possibility is Lewis Italiano, who Merrick worked with at Phoenix.
Make McDonald Jones a fortress
Any genuine title contender wins the majority of their home games.
The Jets won just three matches at McDonald Jones Stadium last season, fewer home victories than any other Hyundai A-League side.
The last time they won more than half of their home games in a season was 2011/12.
Winning at home also brings in the crowds and creates doubt in the minds of visitors.
They say home is where the heart is; it should also be where three points are regularly collected.