Jets in turmoil, where to next?

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January 28 2015 could not be described as your average Wednesday for football in Australia. Fans across the Hunter region of northern New South Wales rose from their slumber safe in the knowledge that the Socceroos had trumped the United Arab Emirates to reach the final of the Asian Cup, at their own Hunter Stadium the night before. But this optimistic beginning to the day was soon followed by an unusual turn of events leaving fans of the area’s A-League side, the Newcastle Jets scratching their heads.

It began with news that Newcastle Jets – engulfed in a storm of controversy regarding the long term viability of the club with owner Nathan Tinkler at the helm – had cancelled training due to heavy rain. The inclement weather is believed by some to have meant planned industrial action by the Jets players was unable to be carried out, although Professional Footballers Australia strongly disputed that notion.

After a few re-signings at other clubs around the league, focus then switched back to the Hunter with yet more shocking news emerging from the Jets camp. Tinkler had decided to part ways with assistant coach Clayton Zane, goalkeeping coach Neil Young and conditioning coach Andrew Packer, cutting Newcastle’s coaching staff in half. Only assistant Michael Bridges, physiotherapist Justin Doherty and head coach Phil Stubbins remain in their roles with the club.

Further reports then began emanating from the Jets that there had been yet more cuts, this time to the playing squad. Five senior players were let go, with over 1400 matches between them. David Carney, Billy Celeski, Joel Griffiths, Adrian Madaschi and club captain Kew Jaliens were all dispensed with. A press release from the Jets stated that Carney’s contract had been terminated for “disciplinary reasons”, while the remaining four players are believed to have accepted offers of mutual termination.

One sticking point is the manner in which the Jets have dealt with these terminations, including a lack of communication with two players. Football Central understands Joel Griffiths learnt of his status from a club staff member who took it upon themselves to contact him, after the club tried to phone Griffiths just once. We have also come to learn that David Carney was not informed of the cancellation of his playing contract until late at night, and again not through an official channel. Sources indicate that the “Jets believe they have grounds for breach of contract” in regards to Carney, although the specifics remain unclear at this stage.

With the FFA having recently threatened to step in and take control of the Jets, it appears the Tinkler era is coming to an end at Hunter Stadium. What is not certain, however, is just what lies beyond that for the Jets and their loyal fanbase. Football Central has learnt that FFA CEO David Gallop has been using the Asian Cup as a platform to shop Newcastle to prospective buyers, with an increase in potentially suitable candidates within earshot during the tournament.

One potential buyer is the Thompson family, owners of Scottish Premiership club Dundee United. Fairfax Media reported in December of last year that United Chairman Stephen Thompson had visited Australia “as part of a wide-ranging fact-finding mission”. Thompson served on the United board from 2002 when his family purchased the club, and took over as Chairman at Tannadice in 2008 after the death of his father Eddie.

Two independent sources have told Football Central that the Thompson family are close to taking over control of the Jets, with the framework for a deal with the FFA already in place.

Andrew Cussen

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