Crawley: Sergio Escudero a dazzling diamond

As highly respected Central Coast Mariners goalkeeping coach and video analyst John Crawley sat mid-flight between Sydney and Seoul on Saturday, the well-travelled ex-custodian passed some time reading a copy of the Club’s matchday handout ‘The Loose Cannon’.

As highly respected Central Coast Mariners goalkeeping coach and video analyst John Crawley sat mid-flight between Sydney and Seoul on Saturday, the well-travelled ex-custodian passed some time reading a copy of the Club-s matchday handout ‘The Loose Cannon-.

As Crawley casually perused the section on FC Seoul, one name featured in the ‘Star Players- part of the story struck him as familiar - Sergio Escudero.

Racking his brain, the former Colo Colo, Club de Deportes Lota Schwager and Mariners ‘keeper attempted to remember where he knew the Spanish-born, Argentinean-raised, Japanese youth international from.

Eventually, Crawley arrived at the 2005 Hong Kong Phillips Lighting International Soccer Sevens - an invitational tournament the Mariners, featuring Crawley between the sticks, participated in alongside the likes of Urawa Red Diamonds, Manchester United, PSV Eindhoven, Aston Villa, and Glasgow Celtic, no less.

“I was reading the article and remembered the name [Sergio Escudero], then I remembered that he was a youth player at Urawa Red Diamonds and that we actually played them in a sevens tournament back in 2005,” Crawley explained. “I remember him distinctly because he was of South American background and he was a very, very good player.”

“They [Urawa] took a youth team there, while we had a mixed team of youth and senior players. He [Escudero] was absolutely taking the mickey and I think he won player of the tournament.”

Crawley-s memory has served him well, as the then teenage Escudero, now 25, did in fact win the competition-s most valuable player prize.

“I briefly met him because when he won that award I translated for the general public that were there for him … I translated his speech [from Spanish to English],” Crawley said.

“He was your typical number ten, if you could say that in a sevens tournament. He dominated the whole game, he went searching for the ball, he was a great dribbler, and he just made things happen. He scored goals, so he was the complete package.” Having now recalled the talents of the dangerous FC Seoul attacker Escudero, and having examined countless hours of footage of Choi Yong-soo-s side since arriving in Korea Republic on Saturday, Crawley knows the Mariners will need to be on their game when the two teams meet at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Tuesday.

But with a good first session in the Korean capital completed on Sunday afternoon, and a familiarisation session at the scene of Germany-s 1-0 semi-final win over Korea Republic in the 2002 FIFA World Cup to come tomorrow, Crawley is confident the yellow and navy can pose problems for the 2013 AFC Champions League Runner Up.

“They [FC Seoul] are a good side [but] they-ve had some changes after their Champions League campaign last year,” he said. “But they are a quality side, and you don-t make the Champions League Final without being a quality side.”

“They-ve got some attacking weapons, they-ve got some new foreigners in, and they-ve got a deadball specialist as well.”

“We-re going to have to be on our game … but I think it is a doable exercise because they are in their pre-season and they-re not fully wound up, so it-s a good time to get them.”

“Kim-s [Kim Seung-yong] given us his insight into individual players and their roles, and some new players that have come in that we don-t really know about too much, so his input has been invaluable to us,” Crawley concluded.

Central Coast Mariners will take on FC Seoul in the Club-s first match of the 2014 AFC Champions League Group F campaign on Tuesday 25 February.

Fox Sports will cover the match live and exclusive in Australia, with kick-off at 9:30pm AEST.

Central Coast Mariners Squad vs. FC Seoul: 1. Justin PASFIELD (Gk), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Marcel SEIP, 5. Zachary ANDERSON, 6. Brent GRIFFITHS, 7. John HUTCHINSON (C), 8. Nick MONTGOMERY, 9. Mitchell DUKE, 11. Nick FITZGERALD, 12. Liam REDDY (Gk), 15. Storm ROUX, 17. Anthony CACERES, 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Bernie IBINI, 22. Tom SLATER, 26. KIM Seung-yong, 28. Glen TRIFIRO, 29. Matt SIM

2014 AFC Champions League Matchday 1 (Group F) - FC Seoul vs. Central Coast Mariners FC Tuesday 25 February 2014 Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, Korea Republic Kick-off: 7:30pm (local); 9:30pm (AEST) TV: Live on FOX SPORTS Twitter: Join the match conversation on Twitter! #FCSvCCM