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Stubbins down to bare bones as he seeks way forward

TALK: Phil Stubbins and Michael Bridges emerge from a meeting with players on Thursday morning. Picture: Darren PatemanHOW do the Newcastle Jets remain competitive in their next A-League match?
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It is one question Jets fans will be asking after the turbulence of the past week.

If losing an A-League record 7-0 against Adelaide United on Saturday was not humiliation enough, worse could follow when they face Brisbane Roar at Hunter Stadium next Friday.

Since the Adelaide debacle the squad is yet to kick a ball at practice.

The two training sessions have involved a jog along Merewether Beach on Tuesday and a spin cycle class on Thursday at the Forum gym.

Both fitness sessions were preceded by crisis meetings more focused on the toxic disharmony engulfing the squad than on mapping out game plans and formations to defeat the Roar.

Developments in the past two days have eroded the depth of the Jets’ roster, which was already looking thin.

Captain Kew Jaliens, Joel Griffiths, David Carney, Adrian Madaschi and Billy Celeski, the perceived leaders in the failed player-led coup to oust coach Phil Stubbins, were sacked on Wednesday, taking with them 333 A-League games and 72 internationals worth of experience.

Their departures followed the release of Marcos Flores (Jacksonville Armada), Mark Birighitti (AS Varese), Sam Gallaway (Western Sydney) and Jonny Steele (Minnesota United) this season. None of the four have been replaced.

Winger James Virgili is also unavailable for at least nine weeks with a broken left ankle.

It has left Stubbins with a bare-bones roster of 13 contracted senior players.

The Jets are believed to be in the final stages of signing former Olyroos striker Travis Cooper and 24-year-old Thai-based former Spain under-19 defender David Rochela, but neither deal is over the line.

It is understood defender Adrian Chiappetta, who captained Northcote City last year in Victoria’s National Premier League, could also arrive before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.

Whether any of the three would be ready to play against Brisbane is highly doubtful.

Stubbins may be forced to throw several youth players in the deep end.

The best possible starting side Stubbins can muster against the Roar is goalkeeper Ben Kennedy; a back four of Scott Neville, Taylor Regan, Allan Welsh and Sam Gallagher; midfielders Jacob Pepper, Ben Kantarovski and Zenon Caravella; and forwards Edson Montano, Jeronimo and Andrew Hoole.

Some are badly out of form and many are bitter at Stubbins and Nathan Tinkler over the treatment of their sacked teammates and coaches. What kind of performance they produce is anyone’s guess.

They have not escaped criticism for the Adelaide debacle and may be motivated to atone in the eyes of fans.

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