Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick.
Newcastle Jets finished second on the A-League table, beat Melbourne Victory twice in the home and away season and are hosting the grand final in front of 30,000 fervent fans at their home ground in the Hunter Valley.
Yet, says coach Ernie Merrick, the pressure isn't really on the Novocastrians at all.
They are the rags-to-riches club, the team whom Merrick, a former Victory boss, has led from the bottom of the ladder to 90 minutes from a championship, a team from whom little was expected at the start of the season.
No, says Merrick, all the pressure in this season decider is on his former club and one-time protege and captain, Kevin Muscat, a man who led Merrick-coached teams to two A-League titles in the competition's early years.
Victory, he says, have all the money, all the stars, are the best supported and are always expected to win when they turn out. The weight of expectation, says Merrick with a smile, is upon his former employers, its coach and his players.
''I think it would be, because they spend a lot of money on players. They won it in 2015, three years ago, they lost last year so I think they’d be pretty keen to win and I think the pressure is on them," Merrick said.
''I’ve tried to take the pressure off our boys by getting them to relax and enjoy themselves. When it comes our boys will perform and we’ll see who the better team on the night is.''
Muscat, asked to respond, wouldn't bite back.
''We are just worrying about ourselves. We don't know what Newcastle's budget is so I can't compare them for you," he said.
''We do know that we have earned the right to be here through our performances. We have performed really well … we have earned every inch of what we have got over the last couple of weeks.''
Victory coach Kevin Muscat (left) and captain Carl Valeri.
''We have been working on our performance, worked hard on the game plan, analysed the opposition, reviewed ourselves from last week … it's all based on getting better this week.''
Muscat said he had no concerns that the dramatic win over Sydney would leave his side physically and psychologically empty.
''The physical side of things won't impact us … we have trained and prepared for that throughout the week.
"Last week it was the opposition that were walking around with cramps after 115 minutes, so we dispelled that.
''The emotional and mental side of things are great. If there was any other game other than a grand final, there's a chance of that creeping in. But the fact that there is a big prize on offer tomorrow night won't affect us emotionally.''
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