A-League teams need to focus to win preliminary final

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Perth Glory's Shane Smeltz the difference for his A-League club

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Make no mistake, the A-League is in a world of trouble. The shocking events in Newcastle this week have unfortunately well and truly overshadowed Saturday’s preliminary final between the Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory.

Both clubs have reason to be shocked by Jets owner Nathan Tinkler’s attempts to hand back his A-League licence.

The Mariners – who have had cash-flow problems of their own – are geographically Newcastle’s closest rivals.

And no doubt Perth owner Tony Sage’s phone was ringing off the hook after Newcastle’s shock announcement given that the Glory chief has been one of the most outspoken critics of Football Federation Australia.

The difference between Sage and Tinkler though, is that Sage has a genuine love for the game.

Tinkler showed via several comments during the week he has no such fondness for football and much prefers rugby league and the NRL.

How the FFA cleans up this mess remains to be seen but a protracted court battle seems inevitable.

Of more immediate concern is how the Mariners and Glory players handle the distractions of the week.

The Mariners have more to worry about given that should they beat the Glory, they have to travel straight after the match to the outskirts of Seoul to take on Seongnam in the Champions League.

And coming off the back of their two-legged semi-final defeat to Brisbane Roar, coach Graham Arnold will need to do his utmost to have the Mariners primed for the Glory game.

That’s not to necessarily to say Perth should go into the preliminary final as any kind of favourites, particularly when Central Coast proved themselves the most consistent team during the season.

But momentum is a key factor in finals series and that’s something the visitors will have on their side after making the cross-country trip to Bluetongue Stadium.

They’ll also be playing in front of a subdued atmosphere, in my opinion.

Sadly, I can’t see too many extra fans turning up in Gosford for this grand final qualifier and I think those in the stands will be as stunned by the news coming out of Newcastle this week as the rest of us.

Far from being a hostile home crowd, I think the picturesque venue will be bathed in a state of shock.

Just a week after a 10-team league look secure for next season, the Jets saga has once again thrown the competition into chaos and taken the focus off the football on the pitch.

Hopefully the Mariners and Glory can turn that around for 90 minutes – or perhaps longer – this weekend.

We need some good news to cap off another difficult week in the history of the A-League, so here’s hoping we get it with a standout preliminary final.

Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and was a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008 to July 2014.
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