Hard work a "non-negotiable" for new boss Papas as Jets squad takes shape

If Newcastle’s players can show as much energy as their new boss in his first 25 days at the helm, McDonald Jones Stadium promises to be a breathless venue next season.

Less than a month after Arthur Papas put pen to paper on a two-season contract at the Jets, a raft of player arrivals and departures have signalled big changes ahead of the 2021/22 A-League campaign.

After finishing second and progressing to the Grand Final in 2017/18, the Jets have since finished seventh, eighth and 11th in the three following A-League seasons.

But under Papas, an up-and-coming Australian manager with a clearly-defined footballing philosophy, the Jets are ready to shake off the disappointment of the three underwhelming campaigns just gone to push into an exciting new era.

Read on as a-league.com.au looks at Papas' coaching career thus far, how the Jets head coach expects his side to play and what his new signings will bring to a club eager for improvement in 2021/22. 

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Papas' progression from Jets assistant coach to head coach took the best part of ten years, as the emerging Aussie manager travelled around the globe to refine his craft in a number of different roles.

Papas left his position as Jets youth coach and A-League assistant to take on the head coaching role of the Indian U23 men's national side in May, 2012, guiding them to the AFC Cup in Oman one month later. 

A number of roles in the Indian game were to follow, both in head coach and assistant coaching capacities. A stint as assistant of Saudi club Ettifaq FC in 2017 came in between Papas' Indian ventures before the Melburnian joined Australian coaching mastermind Ange Postecoglu at J1 League side Yokohama F. Marinos.

It was in Japan under Postecoglu where Papas helped Yokohama to the J1 League title in 2019 - the first occasion an Australian coach had managed to lift that particular title.

A brief stint as head coach of J3 League side Kagoshima United followed for Papas before a return to Australia led the 41-year-old back to the same club which gave him his first taste of A-League coaching back in 2012.

Now operating as Newcastle's head coach, Papas has laid out the philosophy he hopes his side to abide by in the 2021/22 A-League campaign.

“I want my team to dominate with the ball,” Papas told the club website.

“I like to play higher up the ground.

“I want my team to play with a press off the ball so we can put pressure on our opponents and win back possession.”

“It’s a hardworking culture in terms of the whole city,” he added.

They want you to have a go, they want you to be on the front foot. They can accept certain things as long as you're aggressive in the nature that you approach it with.

That suits the way I’ve built my teams as time has progressed.”

 

After the Jets secured the services of Papas for the next two A-League seasons the club instantly set off in pursuit of the players which fit the mould Papas is using to shape his squad. 

Through the door came a number of players from rival A-League clubs and from overseas looking to either build on their extensive experience in the game or increase their limited exposure to top-flight football.

Along with the arrivals, there have been a number of key departures since the end of the 2020/21 A-League campaign including retiring legend Nigel Boogaard, defensive quartet Matt Millar, James Donachie, Connor O'Toole and Johnny Koutroumbis, striker Roy O'Donovan and creative ace Ramy Najjarine, whose loan deal at the club ended at the conclusion of the recent campaign.

Newcastle have signed seven players since Papas' arrival to replace the departing squad members, including experienced central defenders Matthew Jurman and Jordan Elsey.

Rising defensive talents Riley Warland and Dane Ingham arrived from Perth Glory whilst with Mohamed Al-Taay joined from Western Sydney Wanderers after winning his former club's Y-League Player of the Year award in 2020.

Midfield dynamo Cameron Devlin joins the Jets after a successful two-season stint at Wellington Phoenix which culminated in his selection in Australia's Olyroos squad taking part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

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Georgian international Beka Mikeltadze arrived from Greek club Xanthi to offer Papas the attacking firepower lost with O'Donovan's departure - however the new coach won't need to bank on his attacking recruit as a sole provider of offensive threat after the promising performances of a number of home-grown talents throughout the 2020/21 campaign.

Operating at times at full-back but showing a willingness to bomb forward and attack in wide areas was Lucas Mauragis, who showed pace, versatility and an eye for goal under former Jets boss Craig Deans in the opportunities granted to him late in the season, scoring one goal and assisting two others in his final three games of the season.

Mauragis linked to devastating effect with 16-year-old rising star Archie Goodwin to give Jets fans signs of encouragement at the conclusion of an otherwise deflating season. Goodwin threatened to explode in a series of late cameos before netting his first professional goal from distance against the eventual Champions Melbourne City in his final appearance of the season.

Goal of the Week: Archie Goodwin | A-League

With a lengthy pre-season ahead, Papas' preparations for his first season as the Jets boss will continue to ramp up as the arriving players look to make themselves at home alongside the retained players hoping to go to new heights.

After the false dawn cast by the brief tenure of former Jets coach Carl Robinson, and the following struggles ensued by Deans in the aftermath of Robinson's premature departure to the Wanderers at the end of the 2019/20 campaign, Papas' arrival on a two-season deal, along with his clearly-outlined plan to instil an identifiable, hard-working brand of football at the club should give Jets fans reason to be cautiously optimistic ahead of the upcoming campaign.