Ben Kennedy eyeing Jets finals

Newcastle keeper Ben Kennedy is targeting a starting spot and says the Jets can make the A-League finals this season after a four-year absence.

The Hunter side has overhauled its squad under new coach Phil Stubbins with new arrivals Marcos Flores, Edson Montano, Jeronimo Neumann, Jonny Steele and Adrian Madaschi.

The Jets have not made the top six for the past four years, finishing seventh in the 2013-2014 campaign.

Kennedy believes that will change this season.

“The last four years have been pretty tough but I think in all four years it's come down to the last weekend whether we’ve made it or not,” the goalkeeper said.

“We’ve been there or thereabouts, but definitely our aim this year is to make the finals. I really think that’s something we can achieve with the squad we’ve got.

“The pre-season’s been good, obviously with a new coach it’s been a bit different. He has his own ideas. But so far it’s been pretty good. All the new boys that have come in and done pretty well. I’m looking forward to the season.”

A-League golden boot winner Adam Taggart has departed along with Socceroo Josh Brillante, marquee striker Emile Hesky and skipper Ruben Zadkovich, among others. Defender Kew Jaliens has been named as the Jets new captain.

“It was quite a big turnover of players, but the guys that have come in have fitted in very well straight into the team,” Kennedy said.

“We’ve kept a lot of players from last year and with the new players we’ve brought in, I think we’re looking pretty good for the new year. Speaking to them, they all love the city.

“Newcastle’s a pretty good place to live, a pretty laidback lifestyle. All the boys have made them feel welcome and they feel part of the team. Marcos is coming back from the ACL (injury) but every day he’s looking better and better. He’ll add something to the team that we haven’t had for a little while.

“Phil’s got his own ideas on how he wants to play football and he’s got us working on a new formation. There’s been different drills at training and it’s been good to have some fresh ideas.”

Kennedy was a foundation player with the Jets and has been with the club since the start of the A-League. The 27-year old has made 87 appearances, since making his debut in 2006, but has had a long stint on the bench after the arrival of Socceroo Mark Birighitti two years ago.

Kennedy got back on the field for the final four A-League games of the last season and is keen to keep that position.

“It was good to be back playing,” he said.

“I had few games at the end of the year and I thought I did pretty well. I finished the season on a high and I’ll look to carry that over into this season. I’m training hard and I want to win that place again.

“Phil hasn’t given away too much but we’re both quality keepers. We’re both training hard and pushing each other so it can be only good for ourselves and the team. It just comes down to training hard, if you do that then you’ll be rewarded.”