Miller turns up the heat on Jets

Newcastle Jets coach Scott Miller wants to make Hunter Stadium a fortress that other A-League clubs dread to enter.

Miller has taken the reins at the Jets from Phil Stubbins and is trying to revamp the club that took out the wooden spoon last season.

Since arriving in June the coach has made five new signings and currently has the squad on tour of northern NSW.

Miller told FourFourTwo that preparations for the 2015-16 campaign are progressing well.

“I want Hunter Stadium to become a stadium that no other team wants to travel to,” Miller said.

“The team identity must suggest hard-to-beat, home and away – however at home rarely (should we) allow the opposition firstly to perform and secondly win.

“At this current stage we are looking competitive. Our preparations are progressing well and I have been pleased with the players’ attitude to the challenge ahead.

“It’s about the mentality – we need to increase the intensity at which we do things and, as a staff, review what works, improve it, challenge it and continuously drive this playing group.

“I said to the players my first day ‘you will be under more pressure internally from the coaching staff to improve daily than you may ever have experienced, however the difference is we are here to support you.’

“For me it is simple – our performances on field need to reflect that of the personality of Newcastle. We cannot afford to take hard work and discipline for granted as I believe it will be one of our greatest strengths this season.”

Former Adelaide United midfielder Cameron Watson has joined the Jets, along with Western Sydney pair Mateo Poljak and Labinot Haliti. Jason Hoffman has also returned to the club after four seasons with Melbourne City, and Lachlan Jackson has been signed from Brisbane Roar.

Newcastle currently only has 18 players in its first-team squad, with no marquees, but Miller says he isn’t concerned about squad size but quality.

“Numbers and squad size mean very little to some extent,” he said.

“If I could have 21 quality, highly motivated, experienced players as opposed to 24 inexperienced players, that would be my preference. We have introduced and demonstrated that there is a pathway in place for the youth team to progress into the first-team environment.

“At this stage we have had the entire youth team training with us twice, which was interesting as it provided me with the opportunity to review them from a different perspective.

“Cameron joins the Jets and brings over 100 games in the A-League with him. My decision to recruit Cameron is because I believe he will provide the Jets with the midfield balance required and furthermore increase the competition for places in the midfield.

“Watson, Poljak and (Ben) Kantarovski will be competing for starting positions weekly.”

The Jets take on Perth Glory in the FFA Cup Round of 32 next month at Magic Park. Newcastle was knocked out of the competition at the same stage by the same opponent last season.

Glory have been rocked in the past few months by several high-profile player departures following the salary cap scandal, including Andy Keogh, Scott Jamieson, Danny Vukovic, Jamie Maclaren and Jack Duncan.

Miller said the Jets were looking forward to the clash and said squad recruitment was now at a point where training could focus on tactics ahead of the fixture.

“The FFA Cup is a process in the development of the team,” Miller added. “It’s our first of many challenges this season.

“My approach is simple – it’s a fixture-focused approach. Our team will be prepared for the Perth Glory Westfield FFA Cup match.

“We will focus on our playing principle. My focus is not on Perth and what is happening off field there.”

The Jets will kick off their new A-League campaign away from home against Wellington Phoenix on October 11. Miller said he and Senior Assistant Coach, Jean-Paul de Marigny (JP), want the team to play a “disciplined, controlled and measured” style of football this season.

“(My goal is) to create a training ground environment and playing squad that reflects professionalism, discipline and respect,” he said.

“JP and I demand top six training quality and professionalism every day in our preparations. Players and staff must feel empowered and take responsibility for their individual roles, and when we do this, we will be competitive.

“The drive and mentality in the group is focused, it will only improve and momentum and belief will define our top six ambitions.”