2015-16 A-League Season Preview: Central Coast Mariners

Our 2015-16 A-League season previews continue, with Joey Ratcliffe looking at the Central Coast Mariners, where interim manager Tony Walmsley has been given the job full-time.

Central Coast Mariners

Manager: Tony Walmsley
Captain: Nick Montgomery
Ins: Danny Heffernan (Heidelberg), Mitch Austin (Cambridge United), Roy O’Donovan (Mitra Kukar), Paul Izzo (Adelaide United), Harry Ascroft (unattached)
Outs: Hayden Morton (Blacktown Spartans), Tom Slater (released), Matt Simon (Sydney FC), Brent Griffiths (released), Dejan Pandurevic (Manly United), Isaka Cernak (SuperSport Utd), Zac Anderson (Sydney FC), Zachary Cairncross (Blacktown City), Travis Major (Blacktown City), John Hutchinson (retired), Matthew Nash (retired)
Last Season: 8th

2014-15 was… A stark reminder of life without Graham Arnold.

When the Premiership and Championship winning coach left at the beginning of the 2013-14 season his former assistant, Phil Moss, was given the reigns. That season the league’s smallest club achieved a respectable finish of third on the ladder but weren’t able to defend their Championship title, which was claimed by the dominant Brisbane Roar.

Last year, it seemed Moss would continue to evolve as a coach and, hopefully for the Mariners, become the coach he was moulded after.

The season began with a 1-0 victory over rivals Newcastle, however, that was followed up by a winless streak of 12 games until their 2-0 victory over Melbourne City in January.

In February, after only three wins, Moss was sacked as coach and replaced by Tony Walmsley.

The Englishman wasn’t able to bring much success to the side, but they were able to win two more games in their next eight.

Over the entire season, Central Coast were winless on the road, worst of all was a 6-1 drubbing at Suncorp Stadium in April.

Many of the Mariners’ problems came back to recruitment, especially the poor results from foreigners Malick Mané, Richárd Vernas and Kim Seung-yong. In January, Central Coast did recruit the unfit Fábio Ferreira from Adelaide United who had an immediate impact with his mazy runs and three goals from nine games.

2015-16 will be… Much of the same from the Marines.

Graham Arnold, with his ability to get the most out of his players, was unusally successful on the Central Coast, considering the small size and cash flow of the club. Arnold, for most of his tenure, was able to hide the clubs’ intrinsic flaws and disadvantages with the manner in which he controlled the playing department.

Once he left, all those flaws became giant cracks in the foundations. In reality, the Mariners shouldn’t be able to compete with the rich, big city clubs like Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, despite doing so for many years.

The Mariners will never be able to regularly recruit quality players without money. They may find a diamond in the rough from time-to-time, but there will be no marquees for the foreseeable future.

After a ‘global search’, interim manager Tony Walmsley was given the keys to the coaching department full time. He looks and sounds the part, but time will tell if Walmsley can get the same results Arnold did.

If he can, it won’t be this season. Short term results are hard to come by at the Mariners and they need a coach who can develop a side over a number of years.

Key Player: Fabio Ferreira. All clubs need goals, and new Mariners recruit Roy O’Donovan (who once played for Sunderland in the Premier League) will be that man. But facing teams much stronger than them, the Mariners need a spark that will create something from nothing.

And Ferreira can be that man.

He showed glimpses of his ability last year, especially his two goals against Sydney FC which almost won them the game before the Portuguese player wore himself out and was eventually substituted.

After, hopefully, having regained full match-fitness during pre-season, Ferreira should explode out of the blocks and single-handedly win Central Coast games.

Ferriera could be the talisman the Mariners need to overachieve this season.

What, or whom, do Central Coast need? A better defence and more goals.

Last season the Mariners conceded 50 goals and scored just 26. Only wooden-spooners Newcastle conceded more and scored less. Newcastle, however, haven’t experienced the success Central Coast has over previous years, such has been the drastic demise of the Marines.

O’Donovan needs to score goals, but a defensive line boosted by the acquisition by young Aussie fullback Harry Ascroft needs to be far more effective than last year.

Hotshot Michael Neill showed his massive potential last year before being cruelled by injury, but will return this year to left back and will be a key to the Mariners’ defensive structure.

The Blog FC Predicted Finish: 9th

About Joey Ratcliffe 32 Articles
Joey is a journalist that specialises in online sports content ranging from football to golf. Currently working full-time as a Digital content coordinator on the editorial page of Golf Link (www.golflink.com.au), the Sydneysider has also worked freelance with The Roar (www.theroar.com.au) writing news stories and creating highlights packages for AFL, NRL, A-League, the football World Cup and cycling. Often referred to as T-Rex on the football field due to his fast, yet strange technique of running, Joey prefers to dribble than pass or shoot.