It’s a soul kind of feeling for Jets-mad Johnston

Newcastle native Craig Johnston is hoping he’s become a lucky charm for the Newcastle Jets as they seek to complete a fairytale season by winning Saturday night’s A-League grand final on home turf.

Craig Johnston

Craig Johnston Source: AAP

The Australian football icon was there in person to see the Jets upset Sydney FC 2-1 in March and, caught up in the euphoria of their rags-to-riches season, he stayed on for the semi-final victory over Melbourne City.

He will again be at McDonald Jones Stadium for the decider against Melbourne Victory.

With five top flight league titles, a European Cup and FA Cup winners medal among his honours with Liverpool, Johnston knows what it takes to deliver in pressure games and believes Ernie Merrick’s miracle men have one last trick up their sleeves.

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“The last time I had this type of feeling from within a city and its people was when Liverpool were winning, as they are now in the Champions League,” he said.

“There’s a great romance about what’s happening with the Jets in what’s been a really tough year for the A-League.



“I’ve lived in some great towns - London, Liverpool, Paris, Boston, Dublin and Orlando - but coming back home to Newcastle you see how much soul the city has.

“It’s got working class ethics and it’s in my DNA. I’m back in the place I love.

“For me, all the signs are there for the Jets to go all the way - they’ve got the town buzzing.

“There was despair here for a long time with the way the club was run from top to bottom.

“We’ve had a rough series of owners and management which have taken us nowhere.

“But now, with the two Scotsmen (CEO Lawrie McKinna and coach Ernie Merrick) and the Chinese owner (Martin Lee), there’s an air of professionalism, knowledge and credibility.”

Johnston, who began his storied professional career in the early ‘80s at Newcastle KB United, believes the resurrection of the Jets is having ripple effects beyond the club itself.



“There’s a desire to help build a successful town, not just a football club,” he said.

“This is about moving Newcastle in the right direction. You can feel it, and the Jets are a symbol of that.

“I’m a Novocastrian but I can also feel the joy of watching Liverpool succeed in Europe again. Let’s hope they both get over the last hurdles in front of them.”

Johnston is intrigued by the “chalk and cheese” differences between Merrick and his Victory counterpart Kevin Muscat.

“As a player see you different things in different men which inspire you or otherwise,” he added.

“But these are two great characters and I admire both of them.

“They are polar opposites but I see the qualities in both and it’s going to be a ding-dong battle.”


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3 min read
Published 4 May 2018 at 2:34pm
By Dave Lewis