FOCUSED: Ernie Merric explains a point to the Jets players at training this week. Picture: Marina NeilNEWCASTLE boast the best winning percentage at Suncorp Stadium of any team in the A-League including Brisbane, but coach Ernie Merrickinsists statistics will count for nothing when the Jets tackle the Roar on their home turf on Sunday.
Incredibly, the Jets have won 10 of their 17 matchesagainst the Roar in the Queensland capital for a success rate of 58.8 %. Brisbane, three-time champions, have won 50.9% of gamesat home.
Adelaide are next best at 47.4%.Current champions Sydney have traditionally struggled up north, winning just 15.8 %. Merrick’s previous club Wellington have performed the worst in Queensland, winning two of 16 attempts for 11.1%.
In 159 games at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane have lost just 45, 10 of those to the Jets, including a 3-2 defeat in round 14 last season.
However,Merrick played down the relevance of historical statistics–good and bad–due to the continual turnover in personnel.
“I don’t look at it,” he said. “This season is a completely different team. We have five new starting players.You can’t say you have a successful record up there when you have a completely different team.”
Merrick, who has coached more games than anyone in the A-League, said referring to historycould also have a detrimental effect.
“If you look at history in a positive way, you are obviously going to look at it in a negative way,” he said.“We have always lost up there, does that mean we are going to lose this time.”
The Jets have hit the ground running under Merrick.
Awin in Brisbane would propel them to seven points after the three rounds and the best start in the club’s history.
The Roar, who have suffered consecutive losses to Melbourne City (2-0) and Adelaide (2-1), have been boosted by the arrival of French winger AlecBautheac.
The 30-year-old, who made 13 appearances for Lyon in the French Ligue 1last season, touched down on Wednesdaymorning and is likely to feature on Sunday.
“It’s definitely a boost for everyone,” Roar coach John Aloisi said.”We had our captain Matt McKay, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and [assistant] Ross [Aloisi] went to the airport to pick him up at 2am (on Wednesday) – that’s how excited they were.The group is strong and it gives them a lift getting a new player in.”
Merrick said the arrival of any quality player was“great”for the league.
“I expect he will be a very good player,” Merrick said.“My view on these things is that it is great we are bringing in quality players to the league. The higher quality the league,the better for everyone–bigger crowds, more sponsorship, more television exposure.
“I think it is a good thing that they are bringing in a high quality player.”
The Roar have undergone a transformation of sorts since the departure of Jamie Maclaren, who scored 40 goals in 53 appearances, and the release of club legend Thomas Broich.
Veteran Serie-A striker Massimo Maccaronenow leadsthe line and former Victory winger Fahid Ben Kalfallah has replaced Broich.
“With Jamie they had pace up front who could get in behind,” Merrick said.“Maccarone is a different type of player. He is a quality playerbut more one who likes the ball passed to his feet.A speedy tricky winger likeBautheacwill add to them I’m sure.”