STAR BILLING: Former Newcastle Jets captain Matt Thompson has been one of the Magpies’ best this season and the 34-year-old is keen to play on next year. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
MATT Thompson expects coach Michael Bolch to bring players with him to Maitland next season and he believes thatprospect will serve as extra motivation for the Magpies on Sunday.
Maitland travel to Darling Street Oval to face Bolch’s Hamilton side with a place in the top four on the line.
The Magpies sit a point behind fourth-placed Olympic with eight matches to go in aNorthern NSW National Premier League season dominated in recent weeks by movementsfor 2018.
Bolch will take over at Maitland next season, while Hamilton will welcome Peter McGuinness, who was coaching Adamstown until news of the changes broke.
The coaching merry-go-round, which includes David Tanchevski replacing Shane Pryce at Charlestown, has spiked speculation about bids behind the scenes to secure players for next year.
Thompson said Maitland would need to be at their best anyway in an important game on Sunday but thecoaching situation provided another motivation.
“Now Bolchy’s come on board, he’ll have a say on whether he wants myself and other players,” the former Socceroo said.
“Our boys will no doubt be focusing on the three points, but they’ll want to put in a good performance in front of the new coach for next year.
“Bolchy’s been around a long time so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t bring a few over.It will be the‘we don’t want those players taking my spot sort of thing’, so everyone will do their best to impress the new boss.”
Thompson, though, said there was already plenty to play for at the Magpies, whobacked up from their 1-0 FFA Cup loss to Edgeworth with a 6-1 rout of the Jets Youth last Sunday.
“I think they are a bit excited about next year but, at the same time, we’ve put ourselves in a position this year where we are better than last year and we want to get in that top four,” said Thompson, who has scored six goals and been in fine form this season.
“If we can get in there and stay there, we can give the finals a shake.
“We won on the weekend but in a few other results before that we let ourselves down. We lost contact with the top two.
“Before we lost to Adamstown, we could have gone to top spot andnow we’re fighting for fourth.
“It is that close, and it’s a massive game this Sunday. If we don’t get the points we’re playing catch-up again for that fourth spot.”
Bolch did not believe Maitland’s players would lift to make an impression on him.
“I don’t that comes into it this far out,” Bolch said.
“I think it’s just more two teams striving for a semi-final spot. It comes down to 90 minutes on Sunday and who wants it more.”
“There’s eight games left and we probably need to win five of the eight to ensure a semi-final spot, andto win the compwe’ve probably got to win all eight games.
“Maitland are a point behind us and we’ve both got a gap on Magic with a game in hand on them, so this weekend’s a vital game.”
Thompson said Maitland were close to full-strength and had Ryan Clarke nearing a return from broken ribs.Bolch said last week’s bye had kept his side freshand the return of Rhys Cooper, Andrew Swan and Tommy Spencer in recent weeks and created more competition for spots.