Newcastle Jets' form slump of no concern to Ernie Merrick
Newcastle are putting on a happy face in response to their ill-timed slump in A-League form.
The Jets have known they'll finish second irrespective of results for a week now, which may have played a part in their most recent defeat.
On Sunday, Ernie Merrick's side were humbled 3-0 at home by Melbourne City -- a team still very much alive in the race for third.
Throw in the previous result, a 5-2 away loss to Adelaide, and it starts to get concerning. But not for coach Merrick.
"The doom and gloom often happens. I'm not that person. I'm very upbeat," he said.
"I've got a lot of belief and faith in this squad."
Perhaps that's because Merrick has been here before.
In the 2006-07 season with Melbourne Victory, his side cantered to the premiership and, with the pressure off, lost their last two regular season games.
What followed? The 6-0 Grand Final destruction of United that lives long in the memory.
Don't misunderstand Merrick: he'd prefer to be winning.
It's just he knows there are more important things to the Jets at the moment than three points at the weekend.
"Every team goes through a flat spot. It's not ideal it's at the end but we've got the points in the bank," he said.
"How do you get them out of it?
"Keeping training upbeat. Not overdoing training and having a positive outlook.
"The quintessential idea of the coach is that they go out and abuse people. I'm not like that.
"[I say] up front: 'These are the mistakes we have to learn from and let's get in goal-scoring positions.'"
If there's something Merrick wants to get out of the next two weeks, it's the return to fitness of key attacking trio Roy O'Donovan, Ronnie Vargas and Pato Rodriguez.
O'Donovan has had a stop-start season, Rodriguez is a midseason arrival and Vargas is just on the way back from a broken and dislocated ankle in round three.
"There's three or four players that haven't played a lot of football recently ... it's a lot," he said.
"Ronnie is close to 85-90 percent now.
"He'll be fresh this week. Ronnie's pretty close to being at his best."