Two months ago, canny Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick described his Newcastle Jets squad as “the strongest squad since I’ve been at the club.”
The Central Coast Mariners have been doing everything right in the off-season, and deserve a shot at the A-League title. Coach Alen Stajcic has recruited players specifically with experience and pitch authority.
Three new signings spring to mind.
Serbian midfielder Milan Duric is one such superstar to be added to the roster, having won former Player of the Year in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“He is a natural leader and captained Vojvodina last season, one of the bigger clubs of Serbian football,” Stajcic said.
Strengthening the Mariners’ core defensive line is the addition of South Korean midfielder, Kim Eun-Sun. Another player with command and control, Stajcic spoke glowingly about his prized signing.
“To attract a player of Kim’s calibre who captained Suwon Bluewings, one of the biggest teams in Korea, is a tremendous boost for the Mariners and the league,” Stajcic said.
We finally come to Scottish defender and cult-hero Ziggy Gordon, a competitive warrior with plenty of grunt, which was something the Mariner’s lacked in their previous campaign.
“Last season I had the most tackles won in the Scottish Premier League, so I’m definitely there to win the ball back, and give it to players who can do something more special than I can,” Gordon drolly announced.
By recently winning its FFA Cup match against Maitland FC, the “community club” has been embracing new supporters, while extending the Mariner’s brand north, hovering over the geographical footsteps of Newcastle.
In a generous public relations move, Maitland City Council even agreed to provide financial backing for the match.
“Council is providing underwriting support of $11,000, should the event suffer a loss,” Maitland FC club President Ray Watkins said.
Other football clubs please take note. Such procedures indicate harmony between the local government and a sports team, fostering greater public awareness.
Last week, the Mariner’s also allowed their eager fans to view a live stream of their friendly match against Weston Bears FC on Facebook. Sponsored by a major radio station Sea FM, the social media post has been viewed over 19,000 times.
The match was entertaining because its live stream had an unrestricted rawness to it. In an unorthodox move, the game announcers took a chance by interviewing Ziggy Gordon during proceedings.
From the sideline, the Scottish defender praised two goals from the Mariner’s Jordon Murray in two minutes. “He’s obviously been listening to me. He’s got really good ear plugs in.
“If he’s smart, and has a good attitude, which he does, we’ve got a really good player on our hands,” Gordon predicated in the 56′ minute, sounding more like a skilful coach than a champion defender.
While most media-trained footballers give robotic answers on Foxtel, Gordon’s online tactical appraisal was refreshing. Then again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from a former chess prodigy.
With a cohesive group of leaders, Central Coast has the ability to play final’s football this season. For the sake of keeping the A-League competitive, it’s something many football fans would want to see.