After a year of constant criticism of everything the Mariners stood for and what the club was doing, I believe 2016-17 will be a bounce back season.
In many ways the Mariners mirror a more reflective mainstream community similar to many other parts of Australia than other clubs. Having no past NSL history and no real ethnic connections has in the past led to much figure pointing.
Many see this as not being acceptable in some way. Yet there is no logical reason that a lack of ethnic connection nor past NSL history make the Mariners any less a football club.
In many ways because the Mariners have had to fight for their survival against the league in the first place, and being questioned about why they are allowed to play with real football clubs, they have become more determined.
However in the face of all snobbery, the Mariners from season one have had an academy. The Mariners have provided more Socceroos than any other club.
The Mariners have invested more in player development and facilities arguably than the rest of the A-League combined. The Mariners are the only club in the A-League that has a direct link with a specialised football private school.
The constant criticism of the current owner has boarded on abuse by many in the media. However did anyone report on what he was doing or saying in great detail to fans on the Coast? Funny about that, I missed those articles as well.
Mike Charlesworth made one huge error, a massive mistake. Charlesworth rushed the appointment of his first CEO and then took his word rather than analysed what he was saying. It almost sent the club broke.
Charlesworth tried to bring in investors but none could be found. By this time Charlesworth had fired his mistake. He spent time and managed to get the current CEO who is doing an excellent job.
He said I have to save this club and to do that we are going to endure one or two years of extreme pain.
He appointed people he knew could run a club in Peter Storrie, and a coaching consultant in Harry Redknapp.
The Fox crew almost were salivating on negative things to talk about the Mariners last year. Of course not because anyone on Fox had lost a job or not got a job.
With the club on the brink of financial collapse and the COE stalled, Charlesworth – by a fair bit the poorest owner – steadied the ship. He reasoned in a no-relegation league you could have a bad year and rebuild.
Throughout all this however he maintained the core Mariner philosophy of developing young players of exceptional talent who can play in our teams and be sold to balance the budget.
Charlesworth saved the Mariners and developed a business plan to win the competition within five years.
So why does this make the Mariners the most important side in the A-League? Two general reasons. First the Mariners are showing how to convert people from other codes to football. Second we will still produce more Socceroos than any other side.
As a final note the Mariners fans may not be the loudest, nor turn up in the greatest numbers, but we know football.
We will be competitive again this year, Paul Okon is a masterstroke – at least I hope so.