Jets coach to change losing mindset

Pamela Whaley
Interim Jets coach Craig Deans is fighting to change the mentality of the Newcastle players

Interim Newcastle coach Craig Deans faces the monumental task of changing the Jets' losing mindset following the axing of head coach Ernie Merrick earlier this week.

Deans, who had spent some time with the team in the weeks leading into Merrick's sacking, said he spent most of the preparation for Friday night's match with A-League leaders Sydney FC talking to players and managing their mental wellbeing.

The result was a brave 2-1 loss to the champions at McDonald Jones Stadium, but he said more needs to be done to break the bad mental habits that cause the team to play too conservatively.

"We had a plan of how we were going to approach the game, but it's natural that sometimes you become a bit too conservative because you're worried about being a goal behind or two goals behind," he said of the Jets, who have now leaked 19 goals in their past six games.

"I think because in the last three or four games we've been losing by four goals, it's maybe still in the back of their mind that they don't want to lose, but if their mindset is negative, then you start to drop a bit too deep.

"We need to change our mindset, change our mentality without the ball to be aggressive and back ourselves to take little risks."

The Jets leaked two goals in the first half and scored one of their own, but managed to keep a clean sheet and dominate possession in the second half.

Deans said the shock of Merrick's sudden departure made for a difficult week, but gave credit to the attitude of the players.

"You're playing the best team in the competition so in the back of your mind is obviously what's happened, but in the forefront of the mind was they were up for a difficult game and their focus as soon as we went onto the field and started training was excellent," he said.

"The group of players we have are very, very good. We're very fortunate that they want to be successful and they work very hard every day to be that. The week itself was difficult, but not unmanageable."

It doesn't get easier for the Jets, who now travel to play second-placed Melbourne City on Saturday night.

"Hopefully this week, the amount of time we spent talking to players and getting their heads in the right space, we can spend that working at training and talking about football," Deans said.