Jets’ coach, Ernie Merrick will make history this weekend, becoming the first A-League coach to reach 250 matches when he takes charge from the touchline as his side clashes with Melbourne City.
Merrick is the first coach to achieve the huge feat of 250 A-League matches, with the next closest being Sydney FC mentor Graham Arnold who has coached in 191 matches.
He has the most wins (105) of any coach in A-League history, and the fifth highest winning percentage of coaches who have taken charge of more than 100 matches in the competition.
The 2017/18 campaign marks Merrick’s 11th in the Hyundai A-League, having previously coached at Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix, before making the move to Newcastle at the start of this season.
Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna says Merrick’s longevity as an A-League coach is down to his meticulous preparation.
“He’s so organised, he comes into the office after training, prepares training for the next day.
“We’ve got the offices right next to the training ground so all the coaches are here first thing in the morning and it works like clockwork.
“Everybody knows what everybody is doing so there is no head-scratching; It’s all planned, methodical and so organised.”
Merrick began his A-League coaching career in the inaugural 2005/06 season with Melbourne Victory and in six campaigns with the ‘Big V’ Merrick achieved the Premiership-Championship double twice.
In his time coaching at the Central Coast Mariners, McKinna came up against Merrick on many occasions and said his sides always presented a challenge.
“You just never knew when they [Melbourne Victory] were dead,” McKinna said.
“They were down to ten, or nine men down in Melbourne one match. We should have won the game, and I think they actually beat us in the finish.
“They just kept coming, and I think that typifies us this year. We have gone down, with the first goal quite a bit and come back.
“His teams are always hard to break down and always attacking minded. They do the job, and we are doing that this year.”
After leaving Victory in 2011, Merrick coached the Hong Kong national side, before returning to the A-League in 2013 with Wellington Phoenix.
He guided Wellington to a top four finish in the 2014/15 season, however a tough 2015/16 season followed by a slow start to the following campaign resulted in Merrick leaving the club.
He signed for Newcastle in May this year, and hasn’t looked back, beginning the season with five victories from eight matches and approaching this weekend’s clash with Melbourne City, the Jets sit in second place.
“I sent him a text after Mark [Jones] had left the club and I asked, ‘are you bored yet?’ I knew he had a bit of a holiday after [leaving] Wellington,” McKinna chuckled.
“He sent back ‘I’m bored out of my mind’.
“I phoned him up to ask if he was interested in being on a shortlist [for the position at the Jets], and he said ‘definitely’.
“He’s experienced, his personality [is great]. People think he is a dour kind of guy and doesn’t laugh, but he is a very funny guy – they just see his football head.”
McKinna says it has been a joy to watch Merrick’s side go about their work this season.
“It has been really nice to watch us scoring goals, creating chances and having a go. Just seeing the buy in from the players. The buy in is a big thing for me. I think the players we have brought in has helped as well.”
By the numbers:
- The most matches coached in A-League history - 249
- Twice awarded A-League Coach of the Year – 2006/07, 2009/10
- Two-time A-League Premiership and Championship Winner – 2006/07, 2008/09
- Fifth Most Successful A-League Manager (to have coached 100 matches)