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ALM GALLERY: Something building at Jets, says Stanton

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The Newcastle Jets may have finished 10th on the A-League Men’s (ALM) ladder but coach Rob Stanton firmly believes “something is building here”.

After the side wrapped up its commitments at the weekend, following a hard-fought 3-1 loss to the Central Coast Mariners at McDonald Jones Stadium, there was still much to like about the mentor’s debut season in the Hunter.

Newcastle avoided the wooden spoon, registered six victories and 10 draws to accumulate 28 points and unearthed a batch of talented youngsters – Mark Natta, Lucas Mauragis, Clayton Taylor, Justin Vidic, Nathan Grimaldi and Lachlan Bayliss, to name a handful, who’ll form the nucleus of the squad in 2024/25.

“When I look back at everything now, I guess we didn’t take those moments [in matches] when it counted,” Stanton said.

“We had the second most draws behind third-placed Melbourne Victory; maybe if a few of those results fell our way, it would be a different story.

“But, I don’t like to say ‘could have’ because we didn’t.

“So, we have to learn the lessons and make sure we grow further next year.

“If someone had stated there’d be 6-0, 7-0, 8-0 defeats in 2023/24, I guarantee you the Jets would have been mentioned.

“However, it never happened.

“Our biggest loss was 4-0 away to Sydney FC, on the back of three road trips, and maybe 5-3 to the Victory.

“Even then, we put three in the net and had a goal disallowed.

Newcastle Jets star Reno Piscopo was one of the side’s stand-outs in 2023/24. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“So, I credit the team, the staff and the players who worked extremely hard to make sure we didn’t embarrass ourselves or where people thought we would be embarrassed.

“That wasn’t the case.

“Actually, we surprised a lot of people.

“To be honest, I think in the last month we started to really pick up some good points.

“The past nine games were quite good.

“We’ve reduced the goals (scored against us) except for Saturday night… that was a little bit disappointing.

“However, we certainly improved defensively over the course of the year.

“We also scored plenty of goals where people said we would struggle.

“Our big issue was drawing games and not being able to go that next step when we were in a position to win.

Newcastle Jets coach Rob Stanton. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

“That’s definitely an area we must work on.

“Maybe we need one or two more experienced players, if we can, while we continue developing players.

“It’s an ongoing process.

“At the end of the day, I’m relatively happy.

“We finished a bit lower on the table than I would have liked, but I’m certainly proud of the group, especially with their improvement and development over the course of the season.

“That was one thing I wanted to do.

“Overall, we’ve been a young side, however they’ve laid some good foundations.

“If we can start from that same starting point (where we finished), I believe we have a bright future ahead.”

Newcastle striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos broke the club goalscoring record. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Another positive from 2023/24 was the form of striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos.

With the assistance of Taylor, he wrote his name in the Jets’ history books in the final round when he headed in his 17th goal, breaking Adam Taggart’s club record.

“He deserved it,” Stanton said.

“Stamma (Stamatelopoulos) is strong in the air, with an excellent delivery.

“I think he showed he’s a great player overall, he boasts high skills and is technically good on the ball.

“He knows where the goals are, too, and he proved it with a clinical header, which you don’t see a lot these days.”

Milestone man Jason Hoffamn was recognised for his 300th A-League Men’s appearance. Photo: Michael Gorton Images

Stanton also applauded the effort of retiring stalwart Jason “Hoff” Hoffman, who became the ninth player to reach 300 ALM appearances.

“It was a super send off for him,” he said.

“I’m glad the fans came out, I’m glad it was a derby and had high importance as well.

“I am only disappointed we didn’t send him out a winner, however he showed real class when he come on.

“Hoff got stuck in and contested everything.

“He’s a great guy, a good human being.

“I think you have to be of certain character and quality to last that long in the game (17 years) and play so many matches.

“If you don’t, you won’t survive.

“I believe there’s leadership within him and, hopefully, he’ll be around the club in some role or capacity next year.

“That would be fantastic, if possible.

“In order for Newcastle to move forward, we require people who know the club… they have so much to offer.

“In my eyes, he and his family should be super proud of Hoff’s career.”

Stanton also remains optimistic about the Jets’ future and expects an announcement sooner rather than never.

“That’s all out of my hands,” he said.

“We’ve been concentrating on the on-field stuff.

“But, I just want the club to be here… for the fans, for the region, for the game.

“To lose a foundation organisation like Newcastle, you’d lose opportunities for players to develop and people to develop.

“So, it would be a travesty if that happened.

“However, I’m confident it’s not going to occur.

“I understand a deal is on the cards, at the moment, and there’s the pressure of waiting.

“But, patience is a virtue.

“So, hopefully, it’ll get sorted soon.

“Then I can move forward with what we’re trying to do, and continue the work we’re doing, in order to perform better next season.

“I feel good about what’s around the corner.”

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