The longer the A-League season runs and the further behind us the pandemic appears, the more distant excuses and extenuating circumstances drift from the collective thinking around the performances of the 12 teams.
Central Coast coach Alen Stajcic modestly describes the Mariners’ start to the A-League season as a “small ray of sunshine”.
But after five years of dark times, they’ll take it.
The Mariners have logged their best start since the club’s 2007-08 title-winning season, beating championship fancies Sydney FC 2-0 on Friday to make it three wins from four matches.
While hardly a magical run for most sporting teams, it already equals the total number of wins from two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19) during that horror five-year stretch, which saw them also finish last four times.
The former Matildas coach Stajcic, who took over from the embattled Mike Mulvey in March 2019, said he can already feel the Central Coast getting behind the club as they eye a goal of finals football and Asian Champions League qualification.
“The characteristics within the team that I am looking for in terms of the effort, the intensity, the cut-through runs and just the all-up team spirit and mentality is ten out of ten at the moment,” Stajcic said.
“Everything in our club builds confidence. When you’ve conceded the most goals every year in just about the last five, lost the most amount of matches, then everything, every part of the puzzle, is important.”
While sitting atop a competition fractured by COVID, and working at a club whose ownership is still up in the air, Stajcic isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I’m a little bit pragmatic. It’s just the beginning for me and I know how much further we have to go to get real credibility in the league,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sydney FC will look to sharpen their attack ahead of the club’s next scheduled match on Saturday week against Macarthur.
The two-time defending champions have had a win, draw and loss to start the season but have been lacking a finishing touch.
Asked about the possible inclusion of talismanic goalscorer Bobo for the Bulls clash after he rejoined the club from the second division in Brazil, coach Steve Corica demurred.
“Next week? Hmm, not sure about that. Maybe a couple of weeks,” he said.