Central Coast Mariners 2015/16 season preview

More tough times ahead for the yellow or navy, or another year of upsetting the odds? FourFourTwo tells you what to expect…

Last season was the worst campaign for the Mariners since 2010, when they also finished 8th. Let that sink in for a minute.

The stint of Phil Moss, the Arnie-Monopoly drama, the shift to North Sydney, nothing went right for Central Coast. The appointment of Tony Walmsley did seem to calm the waters for a while but they still finished outside the top six. Running on a small budget, the Coasties are up against it to over-achieve once more.

Fan

Josh Howe: “A lot of the critics believe the Mariners will be around the bottom of the ladder and to prove the critics wrong, which this Gosford club has done many times in the past would be driving on everyone involved in the club.

“I think the Mariners success this season lies in the new structures and style of play that Walmsley wants to implement. The appointment of Brice Johnson as Strength and Conditioning coach was a masterstroke as the former runner will add unconventional methods to get the players into top shape.

“Walmsley will want to play a quick style of game with the midfield pushing further up the field and the increased fitness from the players will allow this to happen. Inconsistency may hold the team back this season, though.

“With last season, the side struggled to find any sort of form under Phil Moss and with Walmsley coming in, l think that will change. The Mariners are still a few seasons away from challenging for silverware, but the future looks very good for CCM.”

Why they’ll do well

Few teams are more tight-knit than the Mariners. They have a fantastic culture, a togetherness bred from scant resources and a fighting spirit as the A-League’s smallest club. They’ll need to draw on that, and a new batch of local talent, to break back into finals contention.

The Mariners have produced some quality Socceroos in the past decade – Mat Ryan, Mile Jedinak, Trent Sainsbury, Alex Wilkinson, Tom Rogic – and they can unearth some more gems. Anthony Caceres is improving with time and young Jake McGing has a bright future. With an experienced core of Josh Rose, Eddy Bosnar, Nick Montgomery and Liam Reddy, the spine is there to lead the way.

Mitch Austin and Harry Ascroft appear to be good finds from Europe, while ex-Sunderland striker Roy O’Donovan could be the next Andy Keogh. A positive attacking style that entertains will do wonders at Central Coast compared with Moss’ defensive-focused reign.

Why they’ll do badly

While other clubs are spending, bringing in established and experienced pros, the Mariners have invested their faith in some rookie players. Most are unproven and have yet to set the A-League alight. We may have already seen the best out of the ageing Bosnar and Montgomery. O’Donovan was once in the English Premier League, but he was playing in Brunei last season. Will he be more Brian Deane than Keogh?

The Mariners lack the firepower, the star quality to beat the big teams and an injury or two to some key players could leave them badly exposed.

A-League pre-season friendly results

The big questions

Can Tony Walmsley continue what he started?

The first signs under Walmsley were positive at the start of the year. The Mariners were more proactive and attack-minded. Now he has had more time with the team, and a full pre-season under their belts, the players should be conditioned to follow his philosophy. Walmsley has coached around Australia and the UK, working as a scout and developing young players. Now is his chance to prove he belongs at this level.

Do they have the depth?

While Victory, City and the Sky Blues have deep rosters, the Mariners do not. They only have 21 full-time pros and may need to dip into their National Youth League squad from time to time. Walmsley will be hoping that his first choice XI remains fit and healthy.

How good is Jake McGing?

A lot of talk in the pre-season has been about converted midfielder to centre back Jake McGing. A tall, elegant defender who is good on the ball and hails from Western Sydney, he has a decent rep despite never playing an A-League game. At 21, many are expecting to the former Marconi junior to emerge as a real find in 2015/2016.

Key Player: Fabio Ferreira

The man once signed to Chelsea by Jose Mourinho has been a revelation since he arrived in the A-League in 2012. While he didn’t leave Adelaide United on the best of terms, his class his undeniable, with 13 goals from 51 games. The fleet-footed Portuguese winger will see plenty of ball at Central Coast Stadium this year. The Mariners will need him to score about 10 goals and get five or six assists this term.

What they’ll be saying come April

The Mariners are entertainers once more but fell just short of a finals place. Chairman Mike Charlesworth needs to open the purse strings.

Prediction

Same as last season - 8th.

Transfers

IN

Harry Ascroft (free)

Mitch Austin (free)

Dan Heffernan (Heidelberg United)

Paul Izzo (Adelaide United)

Roy O'Donovan (free)

OUT

Zac Anderson (Sydney FC)

Isaka Cernak (released)

Brent Griffiths (released)

John Hutchinson (retired)

Travis Major (released)

Hayden Morton (released)

Dejan Pandurevic (released)

Matt Simon (released)

Tom Slater (released)

Richard Vernes (Budapest Honved - end of loan)

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