Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond has revealed his innermost fear that his champion team might disintegrate in front of his own eyes after the A-League Grand Final against Central Coast Mariners this Sunday.
A day after watching his heroes storm into the decider following a pulsating 3-2 victory over Queensland Roar, Van Egmond admitted his club was powerless to keep its best players.
“When you achieve success your best players become a target for other teams,” Van Egmond said.
“We’re not dealing with apples against apples here. It’s apples against pears.”
“We have a salary cap and we do not enter into service agreements other clubs have so if somebody is being offered large quantities of money we cannot compete with that and it becomes very difficult to keep your better players.”
“The chairman Con Constantine has come out publicly and stated that we are not doing service agreements (which means players are legitimately paid amounts of money for “extra” positions like coaches or development officers that do not come under the salary cap).
“He wants everything in black and white. So we are limited with $450,000 less.”
“It’s all well and good for him to come out and say that the players have to be loyal and play for the shirt.”
“But they’ve also got mortgages and only a limited time to make their money. These are the things he has to take into consideration.”
“So this will always limit our team in terms of keeping the best players we have.”
Van Egmond said he was well aware that attacker Mark Bridge and defender Andrew Durante were being strongly linked with Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix respectively but he said there was no “done deals” yet.
“I have not given up hope that they will stay and I will do my best to keep both of them - the whole team in fact,” Van Egmond declared.
The young coach who played 15 times for Australia as a defender in the late 1980s said he had an “extremely good” relationship with Constantine, the multimillionaire who bankrolls the club even though their friendship would have been severely tested during Brazilian striker Mario Jardel’s ill-fated stint at the club.
“Look, it’s his club and his money and he pays the bills,” Van Egmond said of Constantine’s attitude towards player payments.
“He simply does not believe in service agreements. He would rather have a salary cap of $2.5m. I can see his point but it makes it hard to keep your best players.”
These matters aside, Van Egmond is looking forward to the more immediate future when his “supersonic Jets” take on the Mariners in a Grand Final derby at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The affable 42-year-old told how he succeeded in lifting his demoralised troops twice in the space of a week.
After the Jets crashed to a 3-0 loss to the Mariners in the Major Semi-final they were pegged back by Queensland with an injury-time goal in Sunday’s Preliminary Final.
Players with a weaker fortitude would have buckled under the considerable weight of disappointment but today’s Jets are made of sterner stuff.
“Some players were obviously very disappointed in conceding so late against the Roar,” Van Egmond explained.
“We just had to go back to what we wanted to achieve.”
“We had to go back to the fact that we were at home, we wanted to take the game by the scruff of the neck and we did not want the game to go to penalties.”
“We worked so hard to get to this stage and we needed 11 leaders on the park.”
“We did not want to walk off the park with any excuses because there would be no excuses. This is what I told my men before extra-time started.”
Van Egmond is proud to be part of a Newcastle team that created history for a football-made region.
“No Newcastle team has ever reached a national grand final,” he said.
“It’s surprising when you consider how many good players have come from this area so it’s a massive achievement for this group of players.”
“It’s a really good feeling and it’s fantastic for our supporters too.”
“There is no secret to our success. It was just hard work.”
“And when you have gifted players who are prepared to work hard you also can do tactical work with them.”
“We like to play the game from the back, we are very big on possession and we like to shift the point of attack.”
“I think we’ve done this quite well this season. Everybody knows what his job is with or without the ball.’’
It all sounds so simple. It also might explain why Newcastle are the best passers of the ball in the league.
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