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30 July
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Ex-Jets skippers: Don’t makes Jones the scapegoat

Mark JonesFORMER Jets captains and 100-plus game players Matt Thompson and Jobe Wheelhouse believe under-siege Newcastle coach Mark Jones deserves a chance to build his own squad next season.
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Another ex-skipper, Ruben Zadkovich, who played 97 matches for the club, says Jones deserves credit for simply taking on the “toughest job in the A-League”.

The support for Jones, who has a year to run on his contract,comes as the Jets face claiming the wooden spoon after a 2-0 loss to the Mariners and with a final-round clash against premiers Sydney FC on Saturday.

Fans have demanded changes at the top after the team’s fall from top-six contenders to five consecutive losseswhile conceding17 unanswered goals.

Thompson, now a player-coach at Maitland, said Jones deserved a second chance after coming in at the 11thhour this season to replace the sacked Scott Miller.

“He did well to get them into a position to push for top four, wheneveryone was on fire, but circumstances changed and, for me, it’s the players,” Thompson said.

“The players were disappointing and when you have too many who don’t perform, you don’t get a result.

“It’s not great that they are going to finish last, and I don’t know what happens behind closed doors and on the pitch,but there’s 22 professional footballers there and their performances weren’t good enough.In a game where there was a lot on the line, the Mariners seemed like they wanted it more.”

Wheelhouse, who plays for Lambton Jaffas and runs his own football academy, saidit came down to dollars.

“If you’re not going to spend the money, you’re going to finish down the bottom,” Wheelhouse said.

“It’s just super hard to compete with the big cities. They are using the full extent of the cap. They havean Australian marquee, an international marquee. There have potentially three, four, five players per squad, in ability and what they bring to the squad, better than what the so-called lower-tier clubs.

“It seems [Jones] hasbeen backed, but he needs to have a cheque book where he can sign players he wants and who are quality players, not just fringe players or players whomight do a job one week and then might go missing the next.

“I think heneeds to be given a second chance, and he needs to build a squad of his own. But he needs the resources and the backing of the owner as well.”

Zadkovich said it wasn’t for him to judge if Jones had done well because“I haven’t been there at training, at the games, or aware of the off-fieldissues” but“Jonesy has one of the toughest jobs in that league. He was brave enough to step into the job and give his all for the club.”

Wheelhouse added that“the other issue is how we attract players now we’ve been out of the finals so long, and who wants to come to Newcastle.”

“It’s a great place to live but people want to come to a place where, a) they are going to get paid well, and b)they’re going to be successful.”

He said it was typical in footballtoblame the coach when teams perform poorly but Jones deserved another chance.

“Jonesy is obviously the scapegoat, but if the players are buying into what he’s doing,then players have to perform. It’s as simple as that,” Wheelhouse said.

“He can only do so much.”

Thompson applauded Jones for dropping Andrew Hoole to the bench for the Central Coast game after his televised sideline blow-up with assistant coach Clayton Zane a week earlier.

“From my experiences playing underhim, he lets you know whether you’re good or if you’re bad, and that’s the best way. Everyone knows where they stand with him,” Thompson said of Jones.

“He wants everyone to get involved and it was a true example on Sunday when he drops Andrew Hoole in a big game and plays the young guy [Harry Sawyer]up front.

“He’s saying that regardless of who you are what you’ve done, attitude is a big thing.

“For me, it was a good move, and good on him, and 100 per cent he deserves a second chance.

“He has the chance to fix things now for next year, and if he doesn’t, then that’s on him.”

 
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