Central Coast Mariners season preview – Okon’s acid test

Central Coast Mariners season preview – Okon’s acid test


Central Coast dismissed Tony Walmsley following an FFA Cup disaster, but can new boss Paul Okon return the Mariners to their former glory?

Last season

The less said about the 2015-16 campaign, the better. The club secured its first wooden-spoon finish with three rounds remaining in the season, conceding 70 goals in the process. An opening day win over Perth Glory proved to be a false dawn, as an 11-game winless run followed to leave the yellow and navy rooted at the bottom of the ladder by Christmas. The January signing of Luis Garcia raised the profile of the squad for a few weeks and did yield a win over Wellington, but the season ended with a ten-game winless streak and a final day defeat to the Jets to further rub salt into the wounds. Ill-discipline and immaturity cost the team several points over the course of the season, with six players being sent off and several games thrown away in the final minutes due to poor defending.


While last season may not have been the greatest reflection of their abilities, the youngsters of this squad have remarkable potential that Okon will be looking to unlock in 2016-17. All Whites defender Storm Roux is considered an older head of the squad but is just 23, while Harry Ascroft has shown his all-action style can work anywhere in defence and midfield. Electric winger Mitch Austin departed for Melbourne Victory, but his loss was covered by the move of Connor Pain in the opposite direction. Still just 22, Pain has been around for a couple of seasons now and will hopefully thrive with regular game time, sharing some of the creative workload with Fabio Ferreira. Local lad Trent Buhagiar has pace to burn and an eye for goal, while 19-year-old Liam Rose is the jewel in the crown as a Young Socceroos mainstay and a regular for the club in central midfield. Harnessing the youthful energy at the club could be the difference between a repeat of last season or a push for the top six.


Although there is plenty of potential, it remains to be seen if there is enough genuine quality in the ranks to be competitive with the league’s heavy hitters. New signings Ivan Necevski, Mickael Tavares and Jacques Faty were given away by Sydney FC without much of a fight, while the youngsters have already shown the ability to defensively collapse at a moment’s notice. Time will tell if Okon can bring more out of the playing group than just the sum of its parts.  The differences between international management and the day-to-day of club football are substantial and it remains to be seen if Okon can make the adjustment.

Best XI

(4-3-3): Necevski; Roux, Poscoliero, Ascroft, Neill; Tavares, Rose, Montgomery; Ferreira, Powell, Pain.

Prediction – 9th to 10th

There are signs of hope shining through in Gosford, but there are still plenty of storm clouds looming over Central Coast Stadium. Okon will be looking to change the system at the Mariners, but with the bulk of recruitment done before his arrival could be facing a season of transition.

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