After a season with Xanthi FC, Matthew Jurman returns to the A-League with the Newcastle Jets aiming to help turn the club’s fortunes around.
Jurman’s year in the Greek Super League 2 was his first exposure to the fast-paced, ruthless nature of European football. From the early departure of manager Tony Popovic, a charge towards promotion and the heartbreak of play-off defeat, the defender was treated to the full range of emotions that second division football can provide.
“I got to see everything, and we were that close to going up, which was a bit hard to take,” Jurman reflected.
“It was a great experience and a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of going over there with Popovic and the Aussie staff, and then not being in too bad a position but they changed the coaches.
“For me it was a good experience because I hadn’t played in Europe before and seen that side of things with promotion and relegation and how cut-throat it is.”
The end of the season was particularly heart-breaking, as a late goal elsewhere demoted Xanthi from the automatic promotion spot, meaning Xanthi had to pick themselves back up for a play-off against a side from the Super League 1.
“I think for 10 minutes we were going up before they scored a penalty and we couldn’t get another goal in the end, and we lost out on away goals in the play-off.
“A month later they scrapped the away goals rule so that was even more devastating.”
The 31-year-old has now returned to Australia to join Arthur Papas’ Newcastle Jets, a club hoping to rebound after a turbulent year both on and off the field, finishing the 2020/21 season 11th, two points above the foot of the table.
Despite only joining training last week due to quarantine, Jurman is already enjoying life under his new coach.
“Training is high intensity, there’s always a lot of touches on the ball,” said Jurman.
“He wants everyone to be involved and it’s exciting to be a part of the way that he wants to play.”
“There’s still quite a few players to come in, but once they are we can implement that playing style and hopefully by the time the season comes we will be ready to go.”
One of those new arrivals is Georgian international forward Beka Mikeltadze, someone that impressed Jurman whilst they were teammates at Xanthi.
“He’s a good player, I rate him highly,” continued Jurman.
“He’s got a mentality of always wanting to score, which as a striker is important, and he’s got a good work rate and can hold the ball up too.
“He’s only young as well and he’s also played some games for the national team, so he has good experience for such a young age.
“I feel like once he’s got over here and he’s got fit and used to our playing style, he’s going to be a good player and score some goals for us.”
Besides the new arrivals, there are some talented youngsters coming through at the Jets. While young defenders Riley Warland and Mohamed Al-Taay are new arrivals, the likes of Archie Goodwin and Lucas Mauragis have already grasped opportunities to shine at Newcastle, and Jurman backs them all to represent the club well in the near future.
“There’s quite a few good players that I’ve seen, even though I have only been here a week,” said Jurman.
“There’s a few that have good potential and if they keep their heads down and work hard will have big seasons.
“Obviously it’s early days so I don’t want to pinpoint any yet, but there’s definitely some good young players that I’ve seen and hopefully the fans will see throughout the season.”
Jurman has been capped eight times by the Socceroos, and was a member of the last World Cup squad in 2018.
After a couple of years in the cold, he has eyes on a return to the national team if he can have a successful season at the McDonald Jones Stadium.
“It’s always a goal for me to be in the national team, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” said Jurman.
“For me it’s about playing well for my club, and trying to make sure the national team coach is watching some good games.
“If that happens it’s a bonus, but first of all it’s about playing well for my club and making sure we have a big season.”
“That’s the number one goal, but it is always an honour to play for the national team.”