Merrick's Jets look to stop Victory recovery in its tracks

Credit to Ernie Merrick.

When he parted company with Wellington Phoenix in January last year, few would have given him much chance of getting another head coaching position in the A-League.

After all, he was in his 60s, had been around since the start of the competition, and his early triumphs with Melbourne Victory - where he won titles in 2007 and 2009 - were by then consigned to the realm of historical memory.

But the Scotsman is nothing if not resilient.

He stepped down, as he put it in a statement, because he had not performed very well with a Wellington team that should have been doing much better.

Since then, he has bounced back spectacularly with the Newcastle Jets.

The Hunter Valley club had been something of an A-League basket case, having not made the finals for the past seven seasons - something that looks almost impossible in a competition where six of the 10 teams make the play-offs.

But Merrick has galvanised them in remarkable fashion to the point where they now sit second on the league table, five points behind leaders Sydney but, crucially, 10 points ahead of Melbourne Victory, who will be their opponents at AAMI Park on Friday night.

The Jets have scored 29 goals in their 12 games and conceded only 13. They are scoring at almost twice the rate of fourth-placed Victory (who have netted 16 times) and conceding fewer at the other end.

And the former Victory boss has achieved this without his marquee signing, Venezuelan Ronald Vargas, who was injured in the round-three game against Brisbane, and in recent weeks minus his main striker, Irishman Roy O'Donovan.

Merrick has inspired players like Dimi Petratos to show the sort of form his ability always suggested he had, while he has also continued the career reboot of former Victory winger Andrew Nabbout, who looks quicker and sharper than he did in his days in navy blue.

In their last game before Christmas, when they demolished crisis club Western Sydney Wanderers 4-0, the Jets showed how good they could be going forward. Having beaten a 10-man Victory 4-1 on their own turf earlier this season, Merrick's men have every reason to approach this latest task in a confident frame of mind.

This story Merrick's Jets look to stop Victory recovery in its tracks first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.