Since securing their first A-League title in the 2012/13 season, Central Coast Mariners have been on a downward spiral. Despite not featuring in the finals for the past three seasons there is renewed optimism on the Central Coast as Paul Okon gears up for his second season in charge of the Mariners.

Last season:
A-League: 8th
FFA Cup: Round of 32

They’ll win the league because…
They promote one of the best attacking line-ups in the league. In Okon’s first season in charge the Mariners were a side in transition. Last season showed glimpses of brilliance and Okon’s off season recruits will only benefit his side in the upcoming campaign.

The Central Coast boss orchestrated an off season clear out and has completely changed the spine of his squad. The club has brought in an array of attacking talent including Tom Hiariej, Daniel De Silva and Spanish marquee striker Asdrúbal to compensate for the departures of key players Paul Izzo, Fabio Ferreira and Roy O’Donovan.

At the same time Dutch imports Tom Hiariej and Wout Brama will add a wealth of experience to the Mariners’ midfield. The addition of 19-year-old Australian goalkeeper, Tom Glover from Tottenham Hotspur could pay dividends as they aim to shore up their defence, which conceded a staggering 52 goals last term.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…
Defensive frailties may come back to haunt them. Over the past few seasons the Mariners have become a side notorious for their shaky backline. The capture of Spanish defender Alan Baró from Melbourne Victory may prove to be Okon’s most astute signing. Appointed captain for the 2017/18 A-League campaign, Baró will quickly need to build a relationship with current centre backs Jake McGing and Antony Golec.

Further up the pitch injuries may ultimately prove costly for the Mariners. If De Silva or Asdrúbal are struck down with injuries throughout the season all goal scoring responsibilities will fall on the trio of Andrew Hoole, Connor Pain and Trent Buhagiar. The three youngsters are still yet to show their best in the competition and goals may be hard to come by with them in the starting eleven.

Talk around the water cooler…Look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.
The off season signing of Hoole sees the winger pull the boots on for three out of the four A-League clubs based in New South Wales. The 23-year-old Novocastrian began his career with boyhood club Newcastle Jets before earning himself a move down south to Sydney FC.

Since his departure from the Jets, he’s failed to recapture the form which brought him so much success and a stint at the Mariners may prove to be beneficial for both parties.

The offseason brought…
During the break there were close to a dozen changes to the squad. Top scorer, O’Donovan departed the club for arch rivals Newcastle, while Portuguese winger Ferreira went to Malaysian outfit PKNS.

For the second successive season the A-League outfit were knocked out in the FFA Cup Round of 32, beaten 3-2 by NSW National Premier League side Blacktown City.

However, the Mariners’ fans will hope that their incoming players will boost their chances of a finals appearance this campaign. Their latest 2-0 friendly win over Melbourne Victory will only strengthen that case.

Key player
Asdrúbal – The Spanish striker has been brought in with the intention of replacing O’Donovan. At 26-year-old Asdrúbal joins the Mariners from boyhood club Las Palmas and early signs indicate that he may prove to be a great capture for Central Coast.

The striker already has his name on the scoresheet after grabbing a goal in their most recent friendly with Victory and he’ll be expected to carry that kind of form into the upcoming campaign.

One to watch
Daniel De Silva – The 20-year-old midfielder arrives at the Mariners from Italian heavyweights Roma but has spent the last 18 months on loan at Dutch side Roda JC.

The young gun will be eager to succeed down under after his standout displays for Perth Glory prior to his move abroad. The move back to Australia gives De Silva the opportunity to once again link up with Okon, who got the best out of the midfielder during his time with the young Socceroos.

Full squad list…
1.Ben KENNEDY, 2. Storm ROUX, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Jake MCGING, 5. Antony GOLEC, 6. Tom HIARIEJ, 7. Andrew HOOLE, 8. Blake POWELL, 9. Asdrúbal, 10. Daniel DE SILVA, 11. Connor PAIN, 12. Trent BUHAGIAR, 13. Kwabena APPIAH, 14. Adam BERRY, 15. Alan BARO, 16. Liam ROSE, 17. Josh BINGHAM, 18. Tom GLOVER (on loan from Tottenham Hotspur), 19. Harry ASCROFT, 20. Adam PEARCE, 21. Kye ROWLES, 23. Wout BRAMA.

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Studying Journalism at UTS. Obsessed with football and a die hard supporter of Sydney FC and Liverpool FC in the EPL