Soccer-Mariners ready to bolt into A-League final
Times were once so bleak at Central Coast Mariners that they thought Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt could add something to their roster but the A-League club are now 90 minutes away from reaching Australia's national championship final. The Mariners host Adelaide United on Saturday in the second leg of their semi-final, bringing a 2-1 lead after overhauling 'The Reds' in front of a noisy crowd at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Times were once so bleak at Central Coast Mariners that they thought Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt could add something to their roster but the A-League club are now 90 minutes away from reaching Australia's national championship final.
The Mariners host Adelaide United on Saturday in the second leg of their semi-final, bringing a 2-1 lead after overhauling 'The Reds' in front of a noisy crowd at Hindmarsh Stadium. An hour north of Sydney, the sleepy coastal town of Gosford will be rocking as Nick Montgomery's men look to complete the job at Central Coast Stadium and book a first final since Graham Arnold guided them to their one and only title in 2013.
Renowned for its thrifty management and lacking the big city amenities enjoyed by rivals, Central Coast have never been seen as a destination club in the Australian top flight. Yet Englishman Montgomery, the former Sheffield United stalwart, has managed to turn a squad of raw, rejected and recycled players into a seriously competitive unit.
Scottish-born striker Jason Cummings, too much of a loose cannon for his former club Dundee, has been laser sharp for the Mariners. His winner in the first leg against Adelaide was the 27-year-old's 17th goal of the campaign. At the other end of the pitch, 38-year-old goalkeeper Danny Vukovic is savouring his second stint at the club after struggling for game time in the Netherlands.
Informing Montgomery is his own experience as a former Mariners captain and midfield general in a career spanning more than 100 appearances. His stint from 2012-17 was spiked by the great disappointment of missing the 2013 championship decider for earning two yellow cards in the semi-finals.
It was to prove a major miss as the Mariners soon went into a tailspin when Arnold, now Australia's national coach, left the club. Languishing at the bottom of the league, the Mariners pulled off a major publicity coup by luring 100 metres world record holder Bolt for a short-lived trial in 2018.
Bolt was unable to reach an agreement on a contract to remain at the club, however, with the Jamaican's camp looking for a deal worth around A$3 million ($2.03 million) according to media reports. The Mariners have not resorted to any such gimmicks since and after years of underachievement managed to break back into the finals in 2020/21 under former coach Alen Stajcic, with Montgomery his assistant and head of the club's youth academy.
Montgomery took over as head coach after Stajcic quit in 2021 and has kept the ball rolling. Though dreaming of one day heading to the English Premier League as a coach, Montgomery has unfinished business at the Mariners, 10 years after missing the 2013 'Grand Final'.
"It’s not easy to build what we built here. So that’s why I’m not in a rush to jump out." ($1 = 1.4743 Australian dollars)
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)