CEO McKinna in for the long haul at Newcastle Jets

Newcastle Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna said he would not have accepted the job if he thought the days of regional clubs winning A-League championships were gone.

Jets fans

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Newcastle won the championship in the 2007-2008 season but have missed the finals in each of the last six seasons.

Central Coast Mariners, which finally won the championship in their fourth grand final appearance in 2013, made the finals again the following year before dropping to eighth in 2014-2015 and rock bottom last season.

Jets were bottom in the 2014-2015 season and eighth last season.

The big-city clubs, with greater sponsorship and crowd support and more money to spend on players, have begun to dominate the competition at the expense of the regionals, but McKinna is adamant there is a way back to the top.

Focusing on the Jets, former Mariners coach McKinna said that to make up the difference the club had to be smarter not only with their player retention and recruitment choices but with their all-round decision-making.

He said Newcastle, now with the financial backing of new owners The Ledman Group, were not going to simply throw money at the club, but would take the general principles from their own successful business and apply it to the football business. 

“He’s very shrewd and what he’ll do here will be based on sound business principles," McKinna said of Ledman Group chairman and new Jets owner Martin Lee.

“He’ll invest, and as the years go on, and hopefully the business side of things at the club gets stronger, he’ll invest a bit more. The club needs stability and Scott (Miller, the Jets coach) steadied the ship last season.

“The Ledman Group is not coming in with the promise of spending huge amounts of money on marquee players. Martin is a businessman, it’s about getting the books balanced and gradually making the football team stronger through wise choices.

“The big clubs have got the advantage with money, and clubs like the Jets need to plan and think about signings and potential signings. Over the years a lot of great players have come through the Jets, and the Mariners, so the proof is there that it can be done.

“Good planning and good management are critically important to regional teams if they are going to be competitive.

“Leicester City proved it in the English Premier League. You can rise from where they were to be champions if you plan well and have the right attitude.”

McKinna said the aim at Jets, over time, would be find some top-line players as well as do some “money-balling” and pick up players who can fill particular roles well without being over-priced.

Promising young players and the odd mature player who is in a lesser competition but could be up to A-League standard complete the picture.

“You can’t just flick a switch and you’re going to win the league, no way,” McKinna said. “But there is nothing wrong with setting realistic goals.

“Some people raised their eyebrows when Martin Lee said the goal was to qualify for Champions League within three years, but what’s wrong with that? Businesses set targets and it’s no different in this case.

“It’s about attracting more income, cutting the losses and gradually spending more money on the team and building a strong squad.

“Scott is talking to a few players and a couple of them are foreigners. It’s about bringing in the right players who are going to improve the blend.

“The regional clubs in particular, but no club, really, can afford to spend a lot of money on a player who turns out to be a flop.

“The goal for the season coming up is to challenge for top six. We’re not saying ‘we’re going to win the league’, but we’ve got a realistic goal - to improve on eighth spot from last season and give the Newcastle fans something to be excited about.”

McKinna said he aimed to be a part of Jets for the long-term.

“I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t believe the Jets could rise to the top again,” he said.

“The reason you want to get involved is the potential the club has got.  They’ve not been in the finals for some years, but still had over 9000 members last season, so the potential is there.

“You don’t want to go to a club for a season or two, you want to be there for many years. There’s nothing worse than watching your team lose every week, but Scott started turning that around last season and now we aim to build on that.”

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5 min read
Published 16 June 2016 at 2:41pm
By Greg Prichard
Source: SBS