The off-season is finally over! It’s time to begin a new Hyundai A-League season and I start this one feeling optimistic. It’s a great time to be a part of the Central Coast Mariners as we work hard to secure a better future, after enduring a couple of difficult years. Mike Charlesworth has seemingly met his end of the bargain by providing Paolo (Paul Okon) with the funds to support his recruitment needs, although I haven’t noticed too many willing to credit him for it yet. Paolo is earning his stripes with his sensibly systematic construction of a squad cleverly designed to balance talented youth with experience and strength. The apparent quality of the signings made this off season is a real ‘breath of fresh air’ for fans wondering how we would pull ourselves out of the slump of recent years. The club management is building and rebuilding community and commercial relationships and engaging with fans and members in new and diverse ways. It’s a new era at the Mariners and not before time either.
Attracting (maybe re-attracting) fans is the next target and there is a sense that a bit of on field success this season combined with the well-run administration will ensure this piece of the puzzle falls into place. With everything heading in such a positive direction, there has never been a better time for fans to “jump on the bandwagon” and help us create another membership record this term.
We start the season with a home #F3Derby. There is no more important match at Central Coast Stadium and this one will have more “sting” to it than recent years. With our former striker leading the line for Newcastle, at least one other of our former playing staff now signed to their roster, and two of their former lads coming our way, there will be plenty of interest in claiming the bragging rights this time. I imagine the reception some of these players will receive from either set of fans will be interesting indeed! I know our local fans are planning a special welcome for the Jets.
Our supporters should be optimistic about the season ahead with the squad bearing little resemblance to the last. There are new players across the park with a lot of the interest centring on the four new foreign players who will fill key roles in the “spine” of the team. Alan Baro promises to provide the defensive composure and direction missing at times in the last couple of seasons. His selection as Captain comes as no surprise after he wore the armband during preseason and showed plenty of the professionalism he brings to our club. Vastly experienced campaigners Wout Brama and Tom Hiariej will control the middle of the park and the pace of our game as well as breakdown opposition threat. At the other end of the pitch Asdrubal Padrón is little known but looks hungry and quality, tidily finishing his preseason chances and showing his toughness and work ethic during his performances.
To combine with the experienced players Paolo has now managed to collect the signatures of some of the best young players in the country. At the head of that list lies Daniel De Silva. Touted as the “next big thing” a few years ago, Daniel has had plenty of bad luck on his journey to the Central Coast Mariners. This could be his opportunity to deliver on his undoubted potential and to put himself back in the frame for Socceroos selection as the World Cup approaches (if we qualify…). Andrew Hoole has also often been discussed as a potential star of the future and he too now has a great opportunity to move on from his relatively unsuccessful stints at the Jets and Sydney FC to show he can fulfil some of his undoubted potential. Another is Tom Glover, who comes to the Mariners on a one year loan from English Premier League side – Tottenham Hotspur – the loan deal a measure of the potential seen in him by the English giants. Kye Rowles, signed from Brisbane Roar, is a talented young lefty who has shown in preseason he has the game to put great pressure on our more experienced left sided defenders.
To be fair, fans should be forgiven for any pessimism about club player signings. Some of our previous signing efforts have been underwhelming to say the least. Who could forget the likes of Malik Mane, Richard Vernes or Jacques Faty’s contributions or the “Worldwide coach search” conducted by our former Technical Director and which found he himself was the best candidate…? Thankfully all the early indicators suggest Paul Okon’s work in the player market is much more likely to succeed. It’s obvious that they are carefully constructed signings filling a well thought plan, and that approach is just the kind of thing to give fans confidence in the coach and the team.
Reading season previews this preseason has been a bit of a laugh. The number of new players entering the league across all the clubs is such that even the most dedicated experts are struggling to know much about some players, including (for some) struggling to pronounce their names… While it does make predictions difficult, it also means we have an exciting time ahead as we see who can and who can’t cut the mustard in our A-League. I can’t wait! The off season has been too long.
This weekend’s F3 Derby prediction – Central Coast Mariners by 1
2017-18 Table prediction – Central Coast Mariners – 5th / 6th
Premiership prediction – Sydney FC
Championship prediction – Sydney FC
Wooden Spoon prediction – Wellington Phoenix
Western Sydney Wanderers
Central Coast Mariners