Bernie has eye on National Youth League debut

The latest signing in Tony Walmsley’s National Youth League squad, 17-year-old striker Bernie Ibini-Isei is in line to make his first appearance in Yellow and Navy since joining the club at the end of December, in Saturday’s Round 19 clash against the Australian Institute of Sport at Bluetongue Stadium.

The latest signing in Tony Walmsley-s National Youth League squad, 17-year-old striker Bernie Ibini-Isei is in line to make his first appearance in Yellow and Navy since joining the club at the end of December, in Saturday-s Round 19 clash against the Australian Institute of Sport at Bluetongue Stadium.

The teenager, born in Nigeria and raised in Sydney-s West, has come through the ranks at Football New South Wales State League club Blacktown City, and has represented his state at various schoolboy levels during his time at one of the most prestigious Sports High Schools in New South Wales, Westfield Sports High.

"I played at Blacktown City last season in the under 18-s, and played a few of the Under 20-s (matches), and got a great experience playing in the Under 20-s there. I go to Westfield Sports High School, I-ve been there since year seven and pretty much learned all my soccer there," said Ibini-Isei.

"I know Matthew Ryan, Mitchell Mallia and Nick Fitzgerald from there. I also play with Matt Ryan at Blacktown, and I was in the New South Wales team at the National All Schools in Perth last August, where I played with Mitch and Nick as well."

Ibini-Isei-s arrival at Bluetongue Stadium brings the tally of players to have played at any level for Blacktown City now in either the Mariners- NYL or Hyundai A-League squads, including management, to an amazing eleven.

"I trialled for the squad (at the start of the National Youth League season) and they told me they-d like me to train with the squad, and when one of the players (Panny Nikas) got called up to the first team, a spot became available.

"I-m a striker, and I did pretty well last season. I was top goalscorer for my team (Blacktown City Under 18-s) and scored a few for the Under 20-s as well.

Ibini-Isei-s Christmas came early last year after signing a short term deal to replace Nikas until the end of the season on Christmas Eve, and the 17-year-old has been forced to hit the ground running, as the National Youth League side looks to keep pace at the top of the ladder.

"It-s been a great experience. Training has been a lot more intense and high paced. I-d be hoping to get on the field and gain some experience, and if the team does well, that-s even better," said Ibini-Isei.

The Mariners find themselves one point off top spot after 18 rounds, after giving away their advantage at the summit of the ladder following a 1-nil loss to Perth Glory at Pluim Park last Sunday, which allowed the Westerners to leapfrog Walmsley-s side into first place.

Saturday represents the perfect chance to retain top position as the young Mariners come up against the Australian Institute of Sport at Bluetongue Stadium. While the AIS has failed to register a victory so far this campaign, two of their four points to date have been registered against the Mariners, making them somewhat of a bogey side, despite the significant gap between the two sides on the ladder.

"Teams near the bottom always fight hard because they have nothing to lose, so it will definitely be a tough game.

"It would be a huge difference. The stadium and the atmosphere will be amazing, so I-m looking forward to it," said Ibini-Isei.

Previous Meetings

Sat 10 Oct 2009 - Central Coast Mariners 2 AIS 2, Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda Sat 21 Nov 2009 - AIS 0 Central Coast Mariners 0, AIS Athletics Track, Canberra

Central Coast Mariners squad: Nik MATIC (GK), Matthew RYAN (GK), Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), Adam KWASNIK (OA), Panny NIKAS (C), Matthew LEWIS, David GULLO, Nick FITZGERALD, Gavin FORBES, Brady SMITH, Nathan SHERLOCK, Adam ORMSBY, Manny GIANNAROS, Brendan GRIFFIN, Mitchell MALLIA, Luka DUKIC, Matthew LIDDALL, Jerry KALOURIS, Bernie IBINI-ISEI, Graz TRIMBOLI. *five to be omitted*

UNAVAILABLE: Nil

AIS Squad: Terry ANTONIS, Jake BARKER-DAISH, Christopher BUSH, Kevin DAVISON, Patrick DIXON, Stephen DOMENICI, Sam GALLAWAY, Jason GERIA, Curtis GOOD, Kamal IBRAHIM, Aaron LENNOX (GK), Scott MELLISH, Aaron PETERSON, Trent SAINSBURY, Nikola STANOJEVIC (C), Lachlan TIBBLES (GK), Marc WARREN *two to be omitted*

Unavailable: Mustafa AMINI (ankle - 1 week), Eli BABALJ (knee - 3 weeks), Brendan HAMILL (ankle - indefinite), David TALEVSKI (broken leg - 2 weeks)

Referee: Kris Griffith-Jones

The Mariners- next home match of the National Youth League 2009/10 season will be against the Australian Institute of Sport on Saturday, 9 January. Kick-off is at 4:15pm. Tickets for this match are available online at www.ticketek.com.au or by phoning 132 849.