Ali Abbas says the young talent at the Jets is helping drive him to greater heights in his comeback to the A-League.
The 34-year-old Iraqi international has returned to Newcastle this season after a successful trial, which followed almost three years away from the A-League.
The former Sydney and Wellington player, who started his A-League career at Newcastle in 2009, featured off the bench against Central Coast, Macarthur and Brisbane before a hamstring injury stalled his comeback.
He returned from the almost four-week break with a 21-minute effort in the scoreless draw with Roar on Sunday and could do a similar job for coach Craig Deans against Melbourne Victory this Sunday at AAMI Park.
However, competition for places in the Jets squad has increased through their four-game unbeaten run with the return of Matt Millar and addition of Luka Prso. Recruit Apostolos Stamatelopoulos is now cleared to play and another, Liridon Krasniqi, arrived on Thursday.
Abbas, though, said the influx of young talent would only motivate him.
"To be honest I never think about that," Abbas said of young challengers threatening his place in the squad.
"It's always when I see this young kid do any extra kilometre on the run, then they push me to do harder than them, so that's competition for the older, experienced players."
The left-side utility has been impressed with the young players across the league who have been given greater opportunities this season because of COVID's impact on imported talent.
"Before COVID they didn't have that chance to show themselves and now we've had that COVID, some players are coming out and showing the A-League they have the talent to be great players," he said.
Abbas said "I'm ready for that opportunity to get in that first 11" but he was prepared to do whatever was best for the team.
"Of course, like every player, I should think to get there and help the team, but at the moment I'm trying to focus on myself to get minutes in my legs and I'm sure I can help the team," he said.
"We are a very good squad and have a good mix of experienced players and young boys as well. I think we all want to do our best for the team and I'm sure everyone thinks just like me."
Despite his time away from top-level football, Abbas said he "never had any doubt" that he could secure a return.
"The touch is always there," he said. "The hardest thing is just to get the opportunity and do well and get that contract.
"I never felt that [I was the forgotten man], maybe fans felt that, but in my head I was always going back to playing football and that was the mentality I had.
"I started with the Newcastle Jets. It was my first team in the A-League. I always had that passion to play for the Newcastle Jets.
"Deansy was assistant coach back in the day and now he's coach. I'm really happy here with the boys and I can't wait to get there and do my best for the team and for the fans as well."
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