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Merrick seeking two more Jets attackers

NZN 26/06/2017 Emma Kemp

Ernie Merrick is shaking up Newcastle, demanding his inherited battlers play on the front foot as he hunts for an attacking midfielder and No.10 to complete his A-League finals blueprint.

Merrick's tenure at his third A-League club began in earnest on Monday when the former Melbourne Victory and Wellington boss oversaw the team's first pre-season training session.

Right from day one the 64-year-old dual championship-winning Scotsman bid farewell to defensive, counter-attacking football, stressing there was no excuse for the wooden spooners to remain in the doldrums for an eighth year running.

Last campaign's woeful late collapse - a record 19 unanswered goals conceded - was front of mind in his objectives to get the simple stuff right and widen the breadth of reliable goalscorers.

Sacked Mark Jones' replacement already has an extra two of those in new recruits Roy O'Donovan (Central Coast) and Dimi Petratos (Ulsan Hyundai), while experienced defenders Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Hatta Club) and Daniel Georgievski (Melbourne Victory) also joined their new teammates.

"I've had a good look at how the team played last year and, without criticising anyone, analysing how we're going to move forward and grow," Merrick said.

"Structurally the defence is an important part ... but making sure we've got goal-scorers that get forward into goal-scoring positions.

"I felt we only had one last year in Andrew Nabbout. We need to improve that big time.

"We'll be more structured, higher intensity. Decision-making has got to be rapid and they've got to be under pressure to perform quickly and play the ball forward - too many take the easy way out and play it square or backwards.

"We should set our expectations high and we should put pressure on ourselves to be a finals team this year. We've got no excuses."

The Jets have two spots remaining on their roster and both will go to players who fit Merrick's philosophy, with one held for a Chinese player as stipulated by the club's Chinese owner.

"Roy and Dimitri have come on board, and I wouldn't mind a No.10 and a very attacking midfielder," he said.

"It's ideal if we get an experienced player who can break forward quickly and has a bit of pace about them coming through midfield.

"The other one will be a Chinese player. That's the business model and I'm very content with the business model."

Nigel Boogaard, who will remain captain in 2017-18, led a near-complete squad at training.

Midfielder Wayne Brown is still in England while new goalkeeper Glen Moss is in Russia with New Zealand at the Confederations Cup.

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