Newcastle skipper Jobe Wheelhouse has asked fans to be patient with the Jets as they try to gel in the early rounds of the A-League season.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond made wholesale changes to the squad during the off-season and the team that Newcastle started in their season-opener against Adelaide last Sunday contained no less than seven new faces.
While the Jets’ overall performance displayed plenty of potential, at times their lack of familiarity showed as passes went astray, players were out of position and the direction was a disjointed as an in-form Adelaide United took advantage to record a strong 2-0 victory.
Wheelhouse admitted that first-up nerves got the better of some players but he is confident that the team will only get better with that game under their belt.
“We were disappointed with the result. We tried to play as best we could and tried to implement the things we did in the pre-season and play it out,” Wheelhouse said at training on Tuesday.
“But it was just one of those days where we were a little bit off and we copped an early goal and we were on the back foot from the start. But it is pretty much a new-look team and people need to realise that.
“I think the first 15-20 minutes we were a bit nervous. We were edgy and were just trying to find our feet.
“It was a big crowd and I think a few guys were definitely a bit nervous. I think we got better as the game went on and I think the first 20 minutes of the second half we were quite good and probably the last 15 minutes we were good with just 10 men, so we will get better that is for sure.
“Things are going to take time and the best case scenario for us is we have a quick turn-around against Sydney this week and we will go down there and try to get the three points.”
Wheelhouse also said it would take some time for Newcastle’s players to learn to use strike weapon Emile Heskey to his full potential.
“We all know how well he holds the ball up and how good he is, it has changed our game plan a little bit and we need to get used to it,” Wheelhouse said of playing with the former England international.
“We have never really played with a target man and we have never really played that direct, so it is going to take some getting used to. It will take some time but we will definitely get better at it.”
Wheelhouse acknowledged that the nerves would be apparent again this weekend when the team travel to Sydney to play in front an expected sell-out crowd in a game that marks the home debut for Sydney FC’s star signing Alessandro Del Piero.
“Personally I love playing against Sydney,” he said.
“I am always very up for the game and they always put a good team out. It is a good rivalry and I am sure it will be no different this Saturday.
“Not many people have seen two players of their (Heskey and Del Piero) stature play against each other in the history of the A-League and I am sure it will be a great crowd down there. I am hearing it will be a near sell out.
“If we can get anywhere near that I am sure it will be great for the A-League and it will be a big buzz for us.”