DEFENDER Josh Mitchell said the competition for places in the Newcastle Jets line-up has stopped the young squad dwelling on their poor run of results leading into Saturday’s crunch match against Sydney FC.
Mitchell said motivation was high in the player ranks despite the club being winless from five and coming off the back of their third straight loss, a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Perth Glory.
The Jets are still fifth on the table thanks to some points squirrelled away earlier in the season, but the 28-year-old said it was vital they came away with the home win against the last-placed Sky Blues.
Mitchell described it as “probably the biggest game of the season so far” for Gary van Egmond’s men who have gone three games without a goal and struggled with injuries and suspensions.
“It’s been hard to get that rhythm, gain momentum and go on a run and I think we’ve probably suffered from that,” Mitchell said.
“But motivation is not really a factor. Everyone wants to cement their spot. They’re all good players in their own right.
“To fit into the A-League and be able to play week in week out is something they’re all still fighting for and fighting to show their coach they can do that.”
One thing that won’t be on the mind of players is the move by the Australian Taxation Office to wind up the Jets for unpaid debts.
The cash-strapped coal king reiterated his commitment to the club and Mitchell said the squad refused to buy into the media speculation.
“Since I’ve come to the club this season there hasn’t been any negative talk about Nathan Tinkler or the Hunter Sports Group or anything like that,” the Newcastle-born player said.
“We get paid on time, we get looked after well, and there have never been any issues on our behalf.
“With the feedback we’re getting from the club – it’s not really on anyone’s mind.
“We understand that there are those in certain circles who are possibly using their influence to print some stuff that may not necessarily be correct. In terms of that we tend to ignore it all.
“We’ve been given assurances by the Hunter Sports Group and people around the team. They’re looking at the next five to 10 years and really developing the Newcastle Jets into a big part of this community and the A-League.”
Last time the Jets played Sydney it was billed as the battle of the marquees and resulted in a 3-2 win to Newcastle.
More recently the Sky Blue’s star signing Alessandro Del Piero has struggled with hamstring problems and the Jets’ Emile Heskey has been goalless since round six.
But the Jets are convinced are return to their high-tempo passing game on Saturday should see the former EPL striker back on the scoresheet.
Mitchell added: “Emile has been playing well I think. He hasn’t got the goals he had at the start of the season but that’s probably not down to him.
“He’s been pretty good for us and leading the line well but I think the team hasn’t really stepped up which has probably been more of an issue than him not scoring goals.
“From our point of view we’ve been a bit slow with the ball and lacking the service to Emile. If we play at a higher tempo we can create things and look to be more positive in general. If we get on the front foot then I think the game will be ours.”