LET me start by saying that in no way am I attempting to play down the importance or the magnitude of tomorrow night’s Bluetongue Stadium blockbuster between ourselves and the Western Sydney Wanderers.
But I’m being brutally honest when I say that it really is just another game in our “Grand Plan” for the season.
It’s no bigger than representing Australia as the only A-League club in this year’s Asian Champions League – as we did on Wednesday night with pride against South Korean powerhouse Suwon Bluewings – in our quest to qualify for the second round for the first time in the Mariner’s proud history.
Graham Arnold has made no secret of our goals this season – back-to-back Premier’s Plates, second round qualification in the ACL and a Grand Final winner’s medal.
And in that order!
So, while top spot is up for grabs tomorrow night against the Wanderers in what is a promoter’s dream 1 v 2 clash for the A-League and domestic football in Australia, the build-up this week started only today for our players.
The ACL game was perfect timing as our players and coaching staff spent the first half of the week focused solely on that before the staff turned our attentions to WSW late on Wednesday night and brought the players in on our plan later in the week. Thursday was all about recovery after Wednesday night’s game.
WSW has been talked up all week and that’s fine by us. No doubt their players read and listened to every word and have been building themselves up for this game all week. That can add a lot of pressure to a team, especially a brand new team.
I have to say it’s slightly amusing how much importance the very people – outside the Mariners – who have said the Grand Final is everything in Australia have put on a game that is all about the Premier’s Plate and nothing to do with the one-off decider on April 20. Is the tide turning?
We have three distinct advantages going into tomorrow’s game – Bluetongue is our fortress, our players have dealt with plenty of big games over the past three seasons as a group and we have had very little time to think about it.
We know it’s about getting the process right and not looking at the scoreboard. There is no rush for fulltime to arrive.
The players are 100% fit, sharp, match-hardened, healthy and confident. Fresh is also a word I’d use to describe the playing group and if yesterday’s training session was any indication we are in or another special performance at home from the boys.
They know the game plan – which contains a few tweaks from the previous ones that yielded a draw and a win (both at Parramatta Stadium) earlier this season – and know that if we execute it and play to our structures with our usual discipline we are every chance of getting the desired result.
We have huge respect for what WSW coach Tony Popovic, his players and the club has done in their start-up year but it is no secret that the key to their success is the fact they have been allowed to sign six foreign players – one more than is the norm and all of whom have settled in and got stronger as the season has gone on. Add to that the likes of Covic, Topor-Stanley, Bridge, Beauchamp and Cole (all one-time Socceroos) and you have a formidable line-up!
But they are now coming to our turf and we have done everything in our power to make it an uninviting place for opponents to visit.
At the time of going to print there were limited tickets left for the match and with WSW set to bring a huge contingent of fans, we need the Yellow and Navy to come out in force to show who rules the Bluetongue terraces. My advice is don’t turn up on match day without a ticket as you may be disappointed. Book them first!
Kick-off is 7.45pm.
Central Coast Mariners vs. Western Sydney Wanderers - Hyundai A-League round 23
Saturday 2 March, 2013
Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Tickets: Please CLICK HERE to purchase tickets to the match!
Twitter: Join the match conversation on Twitter. The official hash-tag is #CCMvWSW