REUNION: Nick Carle will be back in Newcastle on Saturday.NICK Carle credits the Jets for helping launch his career, but any lingering sentiment will be left outside the Ausgrid Stadium gates when he returns with Sydney FC on Saturday.
The attacking midfielder won the Johnny Warren Medal as the A-League’s best player in 2006-07, his second of two seasons in Newcastle, and was a fan favourite at Turton Road.
Carle’s class and consistency were rewarded with a regular place in the Socceroos squad and stints at clubs in Turkey (Genclerbirligi) and England (Bristol City and Crystal Palace).
The Sydney-born Blacktown junior returned to the A-League last season with his home-town club but struggled through an injury-plagued campaign in which the Sky Blues finished ninth, ahead of only Perth and the now-defunct North Queensland Fury.
Fully fit and firing again, 30-year-old Carle has helped Sydney climb to fifth this season, and he has thanked the club and their supporters for sticking by him.
‘‘I had a torrid time last year with injury, so to be back playing on the field and enjoying my football again, I couldn’t be happier,’’ Carle told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘It’s always difficult when you’ve had an up-and-down season through injuries.
‘‘I felt like I let a lot of people down in Sydney and I couldn’t repay the faith they showed in me.
‘‘But I’m absolutely stoked that I had my rest in the off-season, had a really good pre-season, and hopefully I’m now repaying the faith they showed in me.’’
Carle returned to Newcastle twice last season, playing in Sydney’s 2-1 victory on January 3 and a 1-1 draw on February 6. He hopes to remain unbeaten in front of his one-time home crowd.
‘‘I’m very happy to be playing at home in Sydney now, and I’m really happy with the way my football is going, but I really, really enjoyed my two years in Newcastle,’’ Carle said. ‘‘I loved playing there, I thought the fans were great, and the town was great, so I can’t speak more highly of the two years I spent there.
‘‘It was the start of the A-League and it really kick-started my career.
‘‘I love going there, I enjoyed playing there, and I still enjoy playing there, but I’ll do whatever I can to make sure we come home with the three points on Saturday, although every other game I keep a close eye on how Newcastle are going.’’
Carle believed consistency was an issue for Sydney (15 points) and sixth-placed Newcastle (13).
Both teams have won four games, but Sydney have had three draws to Newcastle’s one.
The Sky Blues ended Brisbane’s record 36-match unbeaten streak two weeks ago, but they followed up last Sunday with a 0-0 draw against
last-placed Gold Coast.
‘‘Considering how we started last year, we’re miles ahead, but I still think there’s plenty of room for improvement, and that’s what we’re working on,’’ he said.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond had Carle in his Newcastle squad when he took the reins from Nick Theodorakopoulos seven rounds into the 2006-07 season.
‘‘He’s a quality player, and what he has is that unpredictability within that front third, in that he can make something out of nothing, so we definitely have to be on our guard with him,’’ van Egmond said.
‘‘But he’s only one player in their team, and they’ve got some good players with the likes of [Karol] Kisel and [Brett] Emerton.
‘‘I don’t know whether Bridgey [former Jet Mark Bridge] is coming back, they have [Bruno] Cazarine, the young boy [Dimitri] Petratos, so they’ve got a number of weapons. I’m not too sure where young [Terry] Antonis is at, but obviously he’s another one.’’