Jets players welcome Jones’ passion

JETS midfielder Steven Ugarkovic says Newcastle’s playersappreciate the controversial show of support that has earned their coach a one-game suspension.
Nanjing Night Net

FOCUSED: Jets midfielder Steve Ugarkovic remains confident Newcastle can qualify for the A-League play-offs. Picture: Getty Images

Newcastle mentor Mark Jones was ejected from the McDonald Jones Stadium pitch and banned for their next game after being found guilty of using offensive, insulting or abusive languagetowards a match official during Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Brisbane.

He will not be able to have any contact with the team from two hours before kick-off in their clash with Melbourne City on Saturday week.

Ugarkovic said it was “always good to see the coach stick up for the players”.

“Obviously that’s what you look for in a leader, on and off the field, players, captains and coaches,’’ he said.

“It was good to see.’’

Assistant coach Clayton Zane will take the reins against Melbourne City and Ugarkovic felt Jones’ absence on game day would have minimal impact.

“Obviously it’s a loss, not having him in the changing room, but the coaching staff, everyone involved they send the same message, so I don’t think it will be a massive loss,’’ he said.

“We’ve just got to focus on what he tells us during the week and take that onto the field.’’

Ugarkovic, voted Newcastle’s player of the month for February, said the Jets were still confident of making the finals.

They are currently eighth, three points behind sixth-placed Western Sydney, with five games to go.

Asked how many games Newcastle would need to win to reach the play-offs, Ugarkovic replied: “It doesn’t really matter we need to win.

“We’ve just got to go out there and try to win every game. That will get us into the top.’’

AAP reports: Adelaide United midfielder Riley McGree says he was in disbelief when told of his inclusion in the Socceroos squad.

The 18-year-old was chosen in coach Ange Postecoglou’s 30-man squad for looming World Cup qualifiers after just 12 A-League appearances.

“I was lost for words. I didn’t know what to say,” McGree told reporters on Thursday.

“I didn’t really think it was true, to be honest.”

McGree started the season merely trying to get some meaningful A-League minutes.

But last-placed Adelaide United’s woes have gifted the versatile midfielder opportunities.

“Coming into the season, I thought that I would get maybe some minutes here and there,” he said.

“But due to some unfortunate circumstances of injuries and players leaving, I was thrown in at an earlier stage than I expected.”