Can Okon revive the Mariners’ fortunes?
Central Coast Mariners appointed former Australia captain Paul Okon as their new manager this week, following a disastrous 2015/16 season.
The Mariners finished rock bottom of the A-League, accumulating just 13 points from their 27 matches, the lowest tally in the club’s history. As a result, Tony Walmsley’s tenure was ended after just one season in charge, paving the way for Okon to sign a two-year contract.
The former Socceroos skipper has a huge task ahead of him to reverse the fortunes of the team, with just five weeks before the start of the new campaign. Due to their struggles last term, Central Coast have long odds to rise from the bottom to the top of the league, with Bet365 backing them at 25/1 to win the crown.
The Mariners made several splashes in the transfer market last season, signing former Liverpool winger Luis Garcia and former Sunderland forward Roy O’Donovan. They got off to a perfect start to the campaign against the Perth Glory with O’Donovan netting on his debut, while a brace from Fabio Ferreira guided them to a 3-2 victory on the opening day.
However, Central Coast would not win again until New Year’s Eve, enduring an 11-match streak without a victory, including nine defeats, the worst of which came at home to Melbourne City in a crushing 5-1 loss, while Sydney FC also inflicted a heavy defeat on Walmsley’s men. Hope was sparked with a good performance in a 3-1 win over the Wellington Phoenix, and the Mariners appeared to take confidence from the result, racing into a 3-0 lead against the Melbourne Victory.
A second-half comeback from the Victory was completed in stoppage time, however, when Besart Berisha fired home to deny the Mariners the three points, a result which extinguished any hope the club had of salvaging their campaign. Central Coast would take just four points from a possible 39 in the remainder of the term, losing 11 matches on their way to clinching an unwanted club record.
Garcia appeared just 10 times for the team, notching two strikes before retiring at the end of the season. O’Donovan had a decent term scoring eight goals in 19 matches, and although the forwards were not prolific, the ultimate blame for the Mariners’ strife lay at the back.
They conceded 70 goals in their 27 matches, at rate of almost three goals per game. The Mariners failed to keep a clean sheet and shipped three or more goals in 13 of their 27 matches.
Okon’s challenge will therefore be to solidify the backline to help his team compete in the A-League, and the signing of Sydney FC defender Jacques Faty has signalled the club’s intent in this department.
Faty was part of a Sydney team that missed out on a place in the top six, but did boast the fourth best defensive record in the division. Should he and fellow new boys Mickael Tavares and Ivan Necevski channel the ethos of their old side into the Mariners, then the Central Coast outfit will be able to at least lift themselves off the bottom of the table.
Main photo: Pete Nowakowski