Departure Lounge is overflowing in Newcastle

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The Newcastle Jets today announced a further six players will be departing the club, continuing the overhaul of their playing squad which began during the season itself in rather unorthodox fashion. Sam Gallagher, John Solari, Allan Welsh, Travis Cooper, James Virgili and former captain Taylor Regan have been told their services are no longer required. Along with these six, Zenon Caravella was told he wouldn’t be re-signed last week and a further five senior players were let go in January, as well as a number of backroom staff.

Rather than coach Phil Stubbins nailing his colours to the mast, he has attached them on a post-it-note. After captain Kew Jaliens was shipped out, Regan was given the armband in February. It was taken back two games later, and he is now looking for work elsewhere. The policy to rotate captains is an unusual one and reflects just how unsure Stubbins is of his squad, but the decision to make Regan captain and then ship him out just months later has people scratching their heads.

The unpredictable nature of the decisions made by Stubbins are in keeping with the roller-coaster tenure of Nathan Tinkler as Jets’ owner. Earlier this month Tinkler reaffirmed his commitment to the club after reports he was set to sell up or even be made to hand his licence back.

“We all want the Newcastle Jets to be better and more competitive and I feel like we’ve made a big impression over the second-half of the season,” he said when speaking to Fox Sports after the Jets crashed to their eighth home defeat of the season against Sydney FC.

Two days later and Tinkler again appeared on Fox Sports, this time trumpeting the potential investment of an English Premier League (EPL) club in the Jets.

“I will say there is definitely a plan amongst our management that in the next five years we would love to attract an EPL club that takes a controlling interest in our club.”

Between these two appearances on camera, Tinkler is alleged to have said to Walkley award winning Newcastle Herald reporter Robert Dillon “I hope you get cancer and die”, as part of a 15 minute tirade directed at Dillon. Reports indicated that Tinkler also referred to Dillon personally as a “cancer”, as well as his employer.

Tinkler has acknowledged a verbal exchange took place, and ABC has reported that the FFA have cited Tinkler under their code of conduct.

“Comments were made in the heat of the moment which Robert and I have discussed and moved on from,” Tinkler said.

There is the possibility that Newcastle have a Southampton-esque resurgence next season and this period of instability is left in the past. However, serious questions exist about the ability of Stubbins after a season where the Jets finished bottom of the table, won just three games and ended with a negative 32 goal difference, tied for the worst in A-League history.

This leaves fans and neutrals alike wondering exactly what the plan is for the Jets going forward? Twelve players have been shown the door since the start of the season, and a number of other squad members remain unsigned. Yes, the Jets have lots of cap room, but will these players want to stay in such an unpredictable environment where decisions seem to be made on a whim?

Attackers Enver Alivodić and Edson Montaño are off contract and the Jets are in talks to retain the pair, but can they see a future in the Hunter not filled with all the drama of a daytime soap? Further complicating the possibility of Montaño’s return is the fact that he was only a loan signing this season, and any permanent deal or loan renewal would require a sanction from his parent club, Ecuadorian side Barcelona SC.

Goalkeeper Mark Birighitti is contracted for a further season but is currently on loan at AS Varese, who have the option to purchase the 24 year old as part of the deal, so it is possible that he will not play for the Jets again.

As it stands, the Jets have only eleven senior players contracted for next season excluding Birighitti and David Carney, and with the ongoing turmoil the club continue to find themselves in, their ability to identify and attract quality players will tested to the limit.

Andrew Cussen

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