Coach Tony Walmsley has shot down one of the Central Coast’s most beloved beliefs - that the club achieved greatness on the smell of an oily rag.
Reflecting on a catastrophic season, Walmsley said the Mariners massively erred in offloading a procession of high-earners and resting the 2015/16 season on the shoulders of so many debutants.
But he said it was innacurate to suggest past title-winning sides had succeeded in the face of similar financial constraints.
The Mariners – who have officially recorded their worst campaign in A-League history – came in for another shellacking on Friday night losing 4-1 away to league leaders Western Sydney Wanderers.
Post-match Walmsley said his side was outclassed and not comparable with past Mariners squads who lifted two premierships and a championship.
“It’s a myth (the Mariners) won the league on the smell of an oily rag," Walmsley said.
"They won the league on an unsustainable financial input. We’re now operating at the floor of the cap.
“They won the league with players like Patrick Zwaanswijk, Mile Sterjovski, John Hutchinson, Michael McGlinchey – these players are vastly more experienced than the troops we’ve got running around at the moment.
“We’re still operating at the floor of the cap so we still won’t be able to compete with anybody else in the league for like for like talent. But what we can do is recruit players with the attributes we need to make this squad as competitive as it needs to be.”
Walmsley took the blame for the shambolic season and said young guns drafted in had not developed as quickly as he would have hoped.
“The reality is we lost a lot of A-league games in the players that went out of the club and we replaced them with few A-League games and players with no reference point for the challenges that they've been faced with every week," he said.
“We genuinely believed players would have moved quicker to standard than they have. But the reality is they haven’t.”
The Gosford outfit, which tagged themselves “entertainers” at the beginning of the season, released at least six players including experienced campaigners Eddy Bosnar, Liam Reddy and Nick Fitzgerald.
In a blunt assessment Walmsley conceded the club transferred down during the season.
“We transitioned down a little bit because high earners went out and with what’s left at the floor of the cap you can’t bring in players who are inexperienced at this level,” he said.
“(On Friday night) Adam Pearce made his debut in goal and did a great job for an NYL keeper 18-years-old. He was our 16th debutant this season.”
He added: “There are players who are not with us anymore who we really didn’t want to lose but we’re not going to go into the detail now about why and how that came about."
The Mariners are adrift at the foot of the table having won just three games and conceded an A-League record 66 goals with one game still to play.
“The Mariners are bottom of the league, they’ve got that record and I have to wear that,” Walmsley said.
“We as an organisation have reviewed it and we are sort of accepting of – we’ve ended up we’re we’ve ended up – not through design but it’s where we are.
“The club’s in the best shape it’s ever been in off the pitch – on the pitch it’s the worst shape it’s ever been in. So, that’s the next part of the journey.”
Walmsley said the team was blessed with power and pace up front but needed to recruit at least four experienced players in defence and midfield to be competitive.comments