We continue our series on how the teams who missed the Hyundai A-League finals series last season can put that right in 2017/18.
Today, it’s the Central Coast Mariners as we ask, ‘what must they do to return to their former glories?’
Get the new boys firing early
One of the best things about bringing in fresh players is that they’re relatively unknown to opposition sides.
With three new and top-class imports this season (Tom Hiariej, Asdrúbal and Wout Brama), the Mariners have the chance to produce something different and catch their opponents unaware, particularly early in the season.
Tighten up defensively
Defence not only wins championships, it also helps you into the top six.
The Mariners leaked 52 goals last season and kept just four clean sheets in 27 outings.
When you consider eight of their losses were by just one goal, a solidified defence will go a long way to accumulating more points and improving their table position.
The acquisition of Spanish defender Alan Baro will go a long way to fixing this problem.
Replace Roy O’Donovan’s goals
The Irishman was the go-to guy for the Mariners during his two seasons at the club, winning the Golden Boot on both occasions.
His move to Newcastle leaves a massive goalscoring void, particularly given Fabio Ferreira’s departure, with the Portuguese attacker being the second-top scorer in both 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The newly-arrived Asdrúbal and Andrew Hoole, along with Connor Pain and Trent Buhagiar all need big seasons to help alleviate O’Donovan’s absence.
Make Gosford great again
In the Mariners’ heyday, it was very, very difficult to get anything out of a visit to Gosford.
In the Hyundai A-League championship winning 2012/13 campaign, Central Coast lost just once at home, having also been defeated just once at Gosford the previous season.
In 2016/17, they lost eight games at home, more than anyone else. Teams need to again start fearing a trip to Gosford.
Channel Okon’s desire
You won’t find a more passionate football man than Paul Okon.
The former Australian captain wore his heart on his sleeve last season, kicking every ball with his players and taking every loss almost personally.
If the Mariners can become an extension of their boss, they’ll go a long way to returning the club to finals football.
Okon’s drive and thirst for success makes him very popular with his players which will help immensely in their combined quest for the top six.