Clark holds key to Chinese success

One of the Central Coast Mariners lynchpins in Tianjin could well be defender and club veteran Andrew Clark, whose off field contribution to the Mariners’ maiden AFC Champions League quest will be equal to what on field appearances the standout local product will make in the coming months.

One of the Central Coast Mariners lynchpins in Tianjin could well be defender and club veteran Andrew Clark, whose off field contribution to the Mariners- maiden AFC Champions League quest will be equal to what on field appearances the standout local product will make in the coming months.

Clark, an unused substitute in the Mariners- 0-0 draw with Korean FA Cup holders Pohang Steelers at Central Coast Stadium last Wednesday, has extensive playing experience in Hong Kong with 5-1-7 FC and in Malaysia with Kedah and this domestic experience in Asia, coupled with Clark-s role as the Mariners- Strength & Conditioning Coach, make the 34-year-old a valuable asset to the yellow and navy-s tilt for continental silverware.

While in Hong Kong with 5-1-7 FC between September 1997 and April 1998, Clark negotiated the diverse conditions of the south-east Asian four seasons - experience that could prove telling in the expected near zero conditions in China-s east on Wednesday night.

Having touched down in Tianjin a day earlier than his Mariners team-mates, Clark has quickly adjusted to the Mariners- new surrounds and has eased the yellow and navy into the Chinese way since their arrival in the early hours of this morning AEDT.

"It was great when we first qualified for the AFC Champions League and to now actually be playing in the games that we-ve planned to play in for so long is a great thing and I hope that we get the chance to go as far as we can in this competition and then experience this again," said Clark.

"I definitely think that we-ve done everything in our power to win this game, the players are confident now, given the experiences that we-ve had, that we can beat any team in this competition and that we-re well and truly good enough to be here.

"I don-t think it-s beyond the question to get a result and if we do get a result, why not a win?"

The Mariners- transit to Tianjin began with a two-hour bus ride from their Central Coast Stadium home, which was followed by nine and four hour flights respectively from Sydney and then Hong Kong.

Upon their arrival in Beijing, the Mariners were then required to embark on a three-hour bus ride to Tianjin, which in addition to transit times at Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing airports took the Mariners- total transit hour tally to nearly an entire day.

Despite the daunting travel schedule, the Mariners arrived in Tianjin in good spirits and confident of achieving what would be a famous result against a team regarded by locals as one capable of mounting a serious challenge for domestic silverware in 2009.

"It was a 23-hour trip yesterday for the boys and we completed a light session this morning - just stretching the legs and making sure that everyone was feeling OK," said Clark.

"So far it looks as though everyone has come through the trip very well and in high spirits, so our session this afternoon will be good to get us on the Tianjin Teda Stadium pitch and prepare us for the game in a few days time.

"I-m sure when we play at 8pm at night it-ll be close to zero, which is good conditions to play football in, we-ll be full of running after being used to playing in 30 degrees."

The Mariners- AFC Champions League 2009 campaign continues on Wednesday, 18 March against Chinese Super League heavyweights Tianjin Teda at their Tianjin Teda Stadium home. Kick off is at 11pm AEDT.

The Mariners will next be at Central Coast Stadium for Match Day 3 of the AFC Champions League 2009, where they will take on Japan-s Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday, 8 April. Kick off is at 8pm.

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