The Central Coast Mariners have a clear identity as a family-friendly community club, but their on-field identity has been less clear in recent years.
While Tony Walmsley pledged an all-out attacking approach, his regime ended in confusion as he made changes to try and protect his side against counter-attacks. That inconsistency also extended to the squad, with an odd mix of raw, inexperienced youngsters, solid if unspectacular squad players and the bizarre addition of Luis Garcia.
The sacking of Walmsley weeks out from the 2016-17 season summed up the mayhem, with Paul Okon left to salvage the mess.
Okon has done an admirable job rebuilding what was, and arguably still is, a weak side. The Mariners simply do not have the same quality across the pitch as a Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory. Their place in the league hierarchy (even with a salary cap) was illustrated by James Troisi’s comments last week: “No disrespect, but I wouldn’t be moving to a Central Coast or a Newcastle or anything like that.”
Instead of Socceroos playmakers, Okon has focused on recruiting talented youngsters such as Daniel de Silva, Andrew Hoole and Tom Glover, mixed with strong foreign pedigree including Wout Brama, Tomi Hiariej and Asdrubal. Overall, the squad feels far more balanced, and most importantly, feels like it suits Okon’s type of football.