Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond has high hopes for the new A-League campaign, confident that his charges have learned from narrowly missing out on the finals last season.
Set to start the third season of his second stint managing the Jets, Van Egmond believes that there are many different factors which will put the team in a better position to challenge for a finals berth this season.
Speaking to Goal Australia this week, Van Egmond said he feels the Jets will benefit from a more stable build-up leading into 2013-14.
"We are confident. The pre-season is coming along nicely, it is a bit different to last year where we had a lot of new faces come in," Van Egmond said.
"It is a lot more settled … we are pretty happy with where we sit at this stage."
With the return to fitness of Ben Kantarovski as well James Brown seemingly putting his injury woes behind him, the coach is confident that the right combination of youth and experience will result in a stronger Jets outfit this season.
"Give us that experience [of last year] and also just from the fact of doing things for an extra year, the young ones in particular have learnt so much," Van Egmond said.
"Added with the players that we have bought in … we feel a lot more prepared than we did last year."
The 48-year-old tactician was quick to praise new signing Kew Jaliens, a former Dutch international who signed in August after leaving Polish side Wisla Krakow at the end of last season.
"He is coming in and already made a pretty strong impact," Van Egmond said.
"[He is] helping players understand when they can look to press, when they have to drop off … on top of the fact he is obviously a very, very good footballer."
Newcastle fans will be pleased to hear that marquee player Emile Heskey has enjoyed a solid pre-season to date, which according to Van Egmond will be a considerable benefit to the veteran Englishman.
"He came to us seven days before the start of the season last year, this year he has been here a couple of months which is already a huge advantage," the Jets boss said.
"He knows about the weather, he knows about the travel, he knows more about our players, he knows more about our play so it's a huge benefit this time around for Emile on a number of accounts."
In further good news for the club, promising youngsters Taylor Regan and Andrew Hoole both agreed contract extensions this week, tying them to the Jets until the end of the 2014-15 campaign.
As for Van Egmond's predictions of a stronger showing in the campaign ahead, it will be up to Heskey and his team-mates to prove their coach right by getting off to a flying start when they visit Sydney FC in the opening round of the season on October 11.