Jets and Phoenix have drama like a Dickens story

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair....".

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That might be part of the opening to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, but it could also be the story of the season for Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix.

This campaign has most definitely been what you would describe as an 'annus horribilis' for everyone concerned with the Jets.

First there were the rumours that owner Nathan Tinkler was going to sell the club to Scottish outfit Dundee United, then we saw the night of the long knives when three coaches and five players were given their marching orders as Tinkler looked to re-establish some control after talk of a player coup.

It has been a disaster on the field too, mainly because of the off-the-field wrangling, with Saturday night's 4-0 defeat at the hands of Melbourne City doing nothing to dispel the thought the Jets will end up with the wooden spoon.

Just to rub it in for beleaguered coach Phil Stubbins, Kew Jaliens, who played 39 games for the Newcastle Jets, 13 as captain before being punted mid-season, opened the scoring as the season-long tally for goals conceded moved to 45. The Jets, without an away victory since March last year, now have six games to try to save their season.

They have only one win in the whole campaign, and looking at the fixtures left for Stubbins' men, I don't hold out much hope of them adding to that.

Arguably next week's clash at Western Sydney Wanderers is their best chance of victory, with games to follow against Adelaide United, Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Brisbane.

Lose all of those and the Jets will equal the ill-fated New Zealand Knights' record of one win in an A-League season.

It's also likely they will break the record of the worst goal difference (-32), presently held jointly by the Knights and the also-defunct North Queensland Fury.

Surprisingly, the coach has been backed to the hilt, and not surprisingly, the same is so at the Wellington Phoenix, whose rise under Ernie Merrick is the feel-good story of the season.

They certainly have had the best of times in Wellington, with the team taking top spot in the A-League for the first time in its history with the 2-1 success in Perth on Saturday night.

But it has been away from their own city where the Phoenix has shone, with six victories.

Merrick has tasted success with Melbourne Victory, but no one would have expected he could achieve what he has across the ditch. The canny Scot has turned Roly Bonevacia, Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna into three of the best players in the competition, and built a team round them.

It might be a tall order, but six wins from the remaining six games will equal the A-League record of 18, shared by the Brisbane Roar in 2010-11 and Western Sydney Wanderers in 2012-13, and will almost certainly mean a first minor premiership.

And who knows, an A-League title could soon follow.



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