IF long-suffering Newcastle Jets fans could put aside their prejudices, they might find a source of hope and inspiration an hour down the road.
The derby rivalry between the Jets and Central Coast Mariners has been one of the A-League's great traditions, and any true follower of either team is a sworn enemy of the other mob.
Yet even the most staunch and parochial among the Novocastrian faithful should recognise, albeit begrudgingly, the remarkable progress the Mariners have made under the coaching of Alen Stajcic.
After 16 games, Central Coast lead the A-League points table and have done pretty much since their 1-0 win against the Jets in the opening round.
This is the same side who finished with the wooden spoon last season. And the season before that. And the season before that.
Indeed, four times in the past five seasons, they wound up in the cellar, a far cry from their glory years when Lawrie McKinna and then Graham Arnold were steering the Mariners to minor premierships and grand final glory.
Things appeared so grim that about a year ago I pondered on this page how many more F3 derbies would be played, because there were real fears the Mariners could sink without trace.
Now they are not only top of the comp, they have reportedly attracted the interest of one of the world's wealthiest and most famous clubs, Manchester United, amid speculation they would relocate the Gosford-based franchise to northern Sydney.
Regardless of how that plays out, at face value the Mariners are looking shipshape for the first time in years.
A lot of the credit must surely go to Stajcic, who was appointed in March, 2019, not long after his controversial sacking as coach of the Matildas.
Stajcic was obviously deeply hurt by his shock dismissal from the national role, and he was entitled to have been concerned that the damage to his reputation might be career-ending.
It must have been a tough time, before the Mariners threw him a lifeline.
He took over a team who had won one of their previous 21 games, and promptly masterminded a 3-2 boilover in Newcastle on debut.
It was too late in the piece to avoid the wooden spoon, and 12 months later, Central Coast again finished bottom.
With a record of six wins from his first 32 games, it might have appeared Stajcic was on the endangered-species list.
But this season he is showing the value of affording a coach time to shape a club in his image, rather than just demanding a quick fix.
By combining a youth policy with some wily recruiting and the experience and leadership of Matt Simon, Stajcic has moulded the Mariners into a competitive force.
And it's hard to imagine he has broken the bank in doing so, given that for several years Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has been desperate to sell the franchise, rather than invest in it.
What Stajcic is achieving this season is a reminder of why the Jets need to show faith in rookie coach Craig Deans for the long haul.
Newcastle have a nasty history of turning over coaches. Richard Money, Nick Theodorakopolous, Phil Stubbins, Scott Miller and Mark Jones all lasted no longer than one season.
Previous administrations may have looked at a club-record seven-game losing streak and decided the coach would make a convenient scapegoat.
The incumbent powers-that-be are surely all too aware Deans, in his first season of a two-year deal, is doing his best in a tough situation, especially given the unavailability of senior players.
To put it in context, injuries to Nigel Boogaard, Jason Hoffman, Ben Kantarovski, Steve Ugarkovic and Johnny Koutroumbis have left Newcastle recently with more experience on the sidelines than on the pitch.
The flip side of that is that Deans has been able to offer youngsters Valentino Yuel, Angus Thurgate, Luka Prso, Ramy Najjarine and Apostolos Stamatelopoulos regular game time.
As the Mariners have shown, spending big money on high-profile players is not the only way to turn a club around.
It can be done far more economically with a smart coach and fit, mobile players who are willing to work hard.
In a competition that is clearly not a level playing field, young energy can give a team a fighting chance.
That type of pragmatic approach might also be the Jets' best bet, given the current ownership situation and budgetary constraints, although it is unlikely to deliver overnight success.
On the subject of ownership, while speculation about relocating the Mariners has predictably gone down like a lead balloon with their fans, the prospect of Manchester United becoming involved in the A-League is intriguing.
Manchester City, of course, own Melbourne City and I've often wondered why more Premier League clubs don't buy into the A-League.
A-League clubs would cost a comparative pittance for the billion-dollar juggernauts of the EPL to run and potentially create a pathway for untapped talent.
A pipedream? Maybe. But as the Mariners are showing, on and off the field, anything is possible.