Newcastle Jets Head Coach Phil Stubbins has confirmed that 22-year-old midfielder Jacob Pepper will captain the club against Wellington Phoenix this Sunday.
Pepper is one of four players that Stubbins named in his leadership group at the Jets a fortnight ago, alongside Taylor Regan who has worn the captain’s armband for the past two rounds, goalkeeper Ben Kennedy and defender Daniel Mullen.
Like Regan, Pepper was born and bred in Newcastle and came through the local ranks as a junior player.
He was a member of the club’s youth team before earning a Hyundai A-League contract with the Jets, and has been a regular under Stubbins this season having featured in 14 of the side’s 17 competitive fixtures.
Following training at the University of Newcastle on Friday Stubbins described Pepper as a “great Novocastrian” to local press, and added that he believes the combative midfielder will relish the opportunity to skipper his hometown club.
“He [Pepper] does everything he can in terms of representing the club in the right way,” Stubbins said. “He recently put his hand up as somebody who wanted to be part of a leadership group.”
“Jacob comes in [as captain] with a very good rap not only as a human being but as a player as well and with the service he provides.”
With the Jets struggling for goals this campaign, Stubbins said he had challenged the likes of Pepper and fellow midfielders Zenon Caravella and Ben Kantarovski to provide more effective outcomes for the team in attack.
Though full of praise for the way the trio have helped the side become more difficult breakdown in recent weeks, Stubbins said that the midfield adding more impetus to the side in attack would be key to the side’s fortunes as the Hyundai A-League 2014/15 regular season winds down.
“They’re combative, hard working midfield players,” Stubbins said of Pepper, Caravella and Kantarovski. “They’re not really renowned for scoring goals, but we’ve got to throw the challenge to them that they need to provide a service to the team whereby they are affecting the outcomes for us.”
“We’ll be looking for them to push on and do a service for the team, that’s for sure, along with the boys that we’ve got on the wings and Edson [Montaño] up front.”
In other team and match news, Stubbins said Scott Neville would come back into the team for the clash at Lower Hutt, and added that his charges must do their utmost to thwart the supply provided to Wellington’s dangerous attacking triumverate of Nathan Burns, Michael McGlinchey and Roy Krishna.
The Jets have found success difficult to come by against the ‘Nix across the ditch, but Stubbins said his side are fired up to turn the tables on Ernie Merrick’s men from the land of the long white cloud.
“We’re going over there with a bunch of kids who are going to roll their sleeves up and have a crack against a team that is pretty accomplished at this point in time,” he said.
The Jets leave for New Zealand on Saturday.
Sunday 22 February 2015
Match: Wellington Phoenix vs. Newcastle Jets – Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Round 18
Venue: Hutt Recreational Ground, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Kick-off: 5:00pm (local), 3:00pm (AEDT)
Television: Live on FOX SPORTS 505
Radio: Live on ABC Grandstand & 1233 ABC Newcastle
Twitter: Join the match conversation using #WELvNEW #NTUA