IN the wake of former Central Coast Mariners goal keeper Mathew Ryan’s massive transfer to Spanish giant Valencia, we ask the question are the Mariners the number one development club in Australia?
The argument FOR presents a very strong case, with the Mariners having established a rich legacy of player development that is recognisable throughout the Socceroos and the top flights of Europe and Asia.
Perhaps the biggest of those names is Socceroos and Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak. Along with leading Australia to glory in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and becoming only the fourth player to captain the side to a FIFA World Cup in 2014, Jedinak is considered one of the best midfielders in the English Premier League.
With that in mind, it’s hard to believe that Jedinak was plucked from the NSW Premier League by then manager Lawrie McKinna ahead of Hyundai A-League 2006/07, giving ‘Jedi’ a football lifeline.
Jedinak is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to players developed by the Mariners who have gone on to add value to the global transfer market. That all started in the early days of the club’s history when Michael Beauchamp and Dean Heffernan jetted off to Germany’s FC Nürnberg in 2006 and the trend has continued to this day.
Which brings us back to Mat Ryan, who joined the Mariners’ youth setup as a fresh faced teenager in 2009 and went on to become the best keeper in Australia and Belgium. Ryan now has his sights set on frustrating the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the La Liga with the lure of UEFA Champions League football to look forward to.
2015 has also seen two further alumni from the youth setup make overseas moves with Bernie Ibini recently joining Belgium’s Club Brugge and Mitch Duke joining J. League outfit Shimizu S-Pulse. While he can’t claim all the credit, Tony Walmsley played a big role in the development of many of the youngsters to come through the Central Coast Mariners’ youth squad having coached the side from 2009 to 2012.
Great to be back to winning ways and very happy to get my first goal in the J-league! Thanks everyone for all the kind messages! 👊🏼⚽️🇯🇵— mitchell duke (@mitchduke8) May 10, 2015
Much of the Mariners’ ability to punch above their weight in their history has been the result of a rock solid club culture, with a focus on balancing youth with experience.
That core mantra has seen the Mariners play a key role in providing a launch pad for the likes of Trent Sainsbury (PEC Zwolle, The Netherlands) as well as the Socceroos, Oliver Bozanic (Most recent club FC Luzern, Switzerland) Mustafa Amini (Randers FC, Denmark) Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, South Korea) who became club captain at only 23, Rostyn Griffiths (Guangzhou Evergrande, China) and of course Tom Rogic (Celtic FC, Scotland).
The imprint of the Central Coast Mariners has become folklore of Australian football with the “CCMFC Mafia” of Jedinak, Ryan, Wilkinson and Sainsbury each playing a part in the Socceroos historic 2015 AFC Asian Cup win.
Furthermore, the club’s ability to develop stars of the future was further recognised earlier this year when an official partnership with English Premier League club Everton FC was struck in February, with the Merseyside club hoping to use the arrangement to provide a chance for their youth players to experience football at a senior level.
With Tony Walmsley IN as Head Coach for the Hyundai A-League 2015/16 season, the Central Coast Mariners’ mindset will be fully geared towards giving youth a chance, while they learn the rigours of professional football from experienced players such as Liam Reddy, Nick Montgomery, Josh Rose & Eddy Bosnar.
Let’s face it – in two to three years time, many young Mariners will be hoping to move onto bigger leagues globally, however that is something to be celebrated and part of the Central Coast Mariners continuing legacy and influence on Australian football.
With a list that includes promising footballers such as Anthony Caceres, Nick Fitzgerald, Josh Bingham, Anthony Kalik, Liam Rose, Jacob Poscoliero, Mickey Neill, Jake McGing and Paul Izzo who will be next?