|By MARK HUGHES
Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond has taken steps to ensure his players do not get overawed by the occasion of Alessandro Del Piero's home debut for Sydney FC in their A-League clash at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Anxiousness and nerves were acknowledged to have played a part in Newcastle's disjointed season-opening 2-0 loss to Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium last Sunday.
With a huge crowd expected to welcome Sydney's Italian superstar, van Egmond is conscious of not repeating the same mistakes this weekend.
"It was a huge build up before we kicked off last week, with weeks of training, everyone dying to get out there, the added confidence of Emile [Heskey's] signing and our membership going through the roof and everyone was very excited," van Egmond said.
"I think the boys got a bit anxious and that turned into frustration after going a goal down in the first minute.
"We have to make sure that this being the first home match of the season for Sydney that we don't get carried away by the occasion and that can happen with a big crowd, because they are expecting a big crowd down there.
"We have to ensure that we don't get overawed by the fact that a player like Del Piero is playing and there are other players other than him that we have to concentrate on as well."
Van Egmond said the situation had been discussed at training while it would be the responsibility of the senior players in the squad to keep the youngsters focused.
"Sometimes that is like water off a duck's back for younger players - they don't notice what is going on," van Egmond said.
"It depends on their personality of the younger one as well and how much of a thinker they are.
"But we will have a chat to certain ones that we feel we need to and I know that some of the senior boys have already started that process. But that is also the job of the senior players on the park."
In team news, the Jets have been forced into several changes with youngsters Adam Taggart and Connor Chapman away with the Young Socceroos while goalkeeper Mark Birighitti is suspended following his red card last weekend.
Jacob Pepper and Taylor Regan come into the squad with Ben Kennedy promoted to the starting role in goals with National Youth League goalkeeper Jack Duncan coming onto the bench.
"The unfortunate thing for BK [Kennedy] during the pre-season is that he has had this nagging knee injury and he hasn't been able to have sustainably of a training environment," van Egmond said.
"He is obviously going to play this weekend but he has had a lot more stability coming through the last few weeks coming from the training environment where he has been able to train consistently."
Defenders Dominik Ritter and forward Ryan Griffiths have been included in the 18-man squad after passing fitness tests on niggling injuries sustained in last week's loss to the Reds, while Brazilians Tiago Calvano and Bernardo Ribeiro will also be pushing for inclusions in the starting line-up.
However, van Egmond indicated that he was not going to make wholesale changes to the team.
"We have just been through some shape this morning and we probably haven't really settled on an 11. There are one or two different spots we're still looking at," he said.
"In regards to our formation, we will probably tinker with that a little bit and there could be one or two different players, but maybe they will be bench spots rather than the starting 11."