Jones deserved to work with O'Donovan at Newcastle Jets

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The Jets could be making the same mistakes that held Mark Jones back by signing players before a new coach is in place


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The arrival of Roy O'Donovan at Newcastle Jets underlines how ex-coach Mark Jones was hamstrung by recruitment decisions outside his control.

Newcastle unveiled O'Donovan as a new recruit on Wednesday, and it's hard not to feel sorry for Jones that he never got the opportunity to work with a striker of the Irishman's quality.

Roy O'Donovan Central Coast Mariners A-League

Roy O'Donovan, Central Coast Mariners

O'Donovan scored 11 goals for Central Coast Mariners in 2016-17 and will join their F3 Derby rivals after hitting the back of the net 19 times in 45 A-League appearances.

There is little doubt the 31-year-old would have made a huge difference to Newcastle's fortunes - and Jones' position at the club - if he had been on the Jets' books this term.

Jets part ways with Mark Jones

The Jets sacked Jones on Sunday after it was confirmed Newcastle would finish bottom of the A-League in the 50-year-old's first year of a two-year contract.

For the fourth consecutive A-League campaign, Newcastle will start the 2017-18 season with a new coach, with Jones becoming the third permanent boss to lose his job since Gary van Egmond was sacked midway through 2013-14.

Mark Jones - Newcastle Jets

Mark Jones

Phil Stubbins and Scott Miller have both come and gone after one season in charge before Jones' similarly short tenure.

In an interview with the Newcastle Herald following his dismissal, Jones claimed "there's not much that needs to change other than adding a bit of quality to the squad".

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He continued: "We dominated some of the best teams in the league, we played an entertaining brand of football, we played out from the back and we got into threatening positions, but too often we couldn't convert our chances.

"If you give the squad an injection of quality and finesse, we'd be exactly where we want to be, in the top six.

"And that for me is the disappointing thing. Next season the owner will spend some money and the results will improve, and I would love to have helped build a stronger team and coach it."

Jones must take some responsibility for not being able to halt Newcastle's slide that saw them fail to win a game after January, finishing the campaign with a 10-match winless streak including losing their last six fixtures.

Jones challenges Kokko to go on scoring run

But looking at what decisions he was able to make about his squad during the season shows he never got to build his own team and see what they could do.

After Jones was appointed in September - just two weeks before the A-League season began - Newcastle made just two permanent signings.

Ma Leilei Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory A-League 15012017

Ma Leilei, Newcastle Jets

One of those - attacking midfielder Ma Leilei - was at best rubberstamped by Jones as Jets owner Martin Lee was keen to have a Chinese player on Newcastle's books, while Joel Allwright was signed under the mature-age rookie rule and made just two appearances.

Despite a decent run in the side through January and February, Ma finished the season seemingly out of favour with just seven starts from 15 appearances, plus one goal and two assists.

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Newcastle also brought in four injury-replacement players with Johnny Koutroumbis - one of Jones former prodigies from Adelaide United's youth team - the standout, as he finished the season with 22 appearances and a contract extension.

The Jets added another eight players to their squad this season but all of them were signed when Jones' predecessor Miller was in charge.

Jones' refrain over the last month or so has been that he has effectively been let down by his forwards.

Newcastle didn't create enough chances this season and were even worse at putting them away - the Jets finished the regular season in eighth in terms of total shots and equal last alongside Adelaide for goal conversion.

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Look at the A-League's top six teams and each had at least one forward that scored more than 10 goals, while all had at least one foreign player as part of their best attacking set-up.

At Newcastle, imports Aleksandr Kokko, Morten Nordstrand and Wayne Brown - who were all signed by Miller - failed to make enough of an impact, scoring six goals between them and notching three assists.

Aleksandr Kokko Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners A-League 20112016

Aleksandr Kokko, Newcastle Jets

Nordstrand - in his second season at Newcastle - created 34 chances, behind only Andrew Hoole (63), but Brown, Kokko and Ma all finished outside the top four in that statistic at the Jets.

Even given a chequebook and the autonomy to make decisions for next season, Jones may not have been the coach to end the Jets' A-League finals drought.

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But considering the quality of Newcastle's squad comes down to choices made by his predecessors and other individuals at the club, it seems unfair that Jones is looking for a new job this week.

Jets fans will just have to hope their club isn't making the same mistakes by again signing new players before their next coach is in place.

 

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