From a disparaging English perspective, the A-League is little more than a retirement home for Europe’s spent stars, or a last chance saloon for a burnt out English flop. It is a belief given further justification by the fact that the traffic is generally one-way. However, the Newcastle Jets squad of 2017/18 – a huge surprise package of this season – may become a particular point of interest for the elite clubs of England, and possibly Europe, in the near future.
Under the stewardship of Ernie Merrick, the Jets have gone from basement dwellers to Champions League berth contenders. Indeed, those that take a look at these bonus bets, and use them for A-League wagers, can see that Newcastle’s odds of success are shortening almost by the day. Now a comfortable second in the table, and with a goal difference that eclipses all beneath them, the Jets are now making headlines for all the right reasons. Within the Jets squad, certain players stand prominent as potential English Premier League bargains.
The chasm between the A-League and PL – in terms of what is physically required to succeed – can only grow from here. However, all three of these players boast qualities consistent with Premier League talent. All it could ever take is the right brand of coaching.
Having played in Croatia and represented the nation’s U19 squad, Vujica brings a refined game to Australia, which Merrick has been able to utilise effectively. Vujica also has a feisty temperament, and never shies away from a tackle, as evidenced by a current return of five yellow cards from eighteen appearances.
Though relatively inexperienced, it is clear to see that the 20 year-old already has a healthy balance of all the skills required to be an effective fullback. Although every Newcastle player appears to have grown well under Merrick, Vujica has been a noticeable beneficiary of the new tactical game invoked by him.
Nabbout’s story is one of perseverance against the odds. His first stint as an A-League player proved to be a failure, and with his game time limited, he signed for Malaysian club Negeri Sembilan. In doing so, he provoked many to believe that he would just become another Australian exile, lost in the wilderness of Asian league football.
Once given significant game time, he discovered a talent that only a lucky minority of wingers develop, becoming a highly-effective makeshift striker. His ability to drift inwards, and score almost at will, could not fail to gain the attention of Australian clubs. Though inexplicably released by his club, Nabbout was not without a club for very long, as former Jets coach Scott Miller pounced ahead of 2016/17.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Jets’ top scorer in his first season, Nabbout is now one of the main driving forces behind Newcastle’s surge. Now also considered an outsider for a World Cup berth, Nabbout’s versatility could be the golden ticket to a future in a major European league.
November’s ‘player of the month’ Petratos joined Newcastle Jets at a time when the club was on its knees, having finished bottom of the 2016/17 A-League. He was already a seasoned A-League player before Merrick took him under his wing. However, much of Petratos’ ability in the attacking-midfield role can be attributed to the time he spent in the Korean K-League prior to his Newcastle return.
Over in South Korea, he developed his trade in an increasingly-rich league that is increasingly embracing European values of counter-attacking play and pressing. Though he was deemed surplus to requirements at Ulsan, it came as no surprise to see Australian clubs once more vying for his signature. Today, Petratos maintains a healthy goals-per-game rate, cutting through defences with excellent vision, and providing much of the legwork in a front four that has proven unplayable at times this season.