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Jan 26, 2009

Van Egmond facing testing times ahead

Newcastle's horrific A-League season is over but the tough work is really only just beginning for Jets coach Gary van Egmond.

He strolled into the post-match press conference at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday looking like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Rewind 11 months to the same venue, and van Egmond was the picture of happiness after guiding his side to their first-ever A-League crown and booking a place in the lucrative Asian Champions League in the process.

That grand final is now nothing more than a distant memory with just six members of the team that beat the Central Coast Mariners featuring in the 4-0 defeat to Sydney FC to end a torturous season that has seen the Jets go from champions to wooden spoon holders.

Complicating matters for van Egmond is that several stars are eyeing transfers before the Champions League campaign begins against Beijing Guoan on March 11.

Marquee player Joel Griffiths is seemingly heading out the door to a lucrative contract in China and his twin brother Adam set to also leave after he was hauled off at half-time on Sunday by van Egmond after the coach deemed his mind was more focused on a transfer to Korea rather than the job of stopping Sydney.

And Mark Milligan, who has made no secret of his desire for a move overseas ever since he left Sydney with high hopes of finding a gig with one of the European big guns, is also set to move to China after returning to Australia with his tail between his legs earlier this year.

The Newcastle coach admits he is in danger of not having a competitive team to put on the pitch in the Champions League opener unless he can complete his own recruiting before the January transfer window closes.

"If we put out the squad we had today in the Champions League there is no doubt we will be under the pump," said van Egmond.

"We need to ensure we have decent recruitments and we need outcomes on the more high-profile players like Adam Griffiths, Ante Covic, Mark Milligan and Joel Griffiths.

"We need to look at replacement players and at the moment Nikolai Topor-Stanley is the only one we have secured and the longer we don't go with replacements for the players .. if they are to go .. the less likely we are to get decent ones because they want to secure their futures either with us or someone else.

"Realistically we need about half a dozen new faces and we are down the track with four or five players and it's a case of negotiating dollars and securing visas for the overseas ones before the transfer window closes in January."

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