Forza Mariners after Merenda signs on for Italian job

The Central Coast Mariners have today added versatile Italian import Andrea Merenda to their playing roster for a six-round playing stint – the European journeyman signed on as cover for long-term injury concern Ahmad Elrich for the coming two months pending an international clearance and final approval from Football Federation Australia.

The Central Coast Mariners have today added versatile Italian import Andrea Merenda to their playing roster for a six-round playing stint - the European journeyman signed on as cover for long-term injury concern Ahmad Elrich for the coming two months pending an international clearance and final approval from Football Federation Australia.

Merenda, 31, has been in training with the Mariners for the past month after completing the 2007/08 Italian Serie C1 campaign with Calcio Lecco, an historic club from the north of Italy once coached by the manager that took Italy to Euro 2008 - Roberto Donadoni.

Born in Milan, Merenda has come to Australia seeking a fresh football challenge after 16 seasons in his home country that has included stints at nine clubs across various divisions - peaking with six seasons in the third-tier Serie C1, a division that once pitted Merenda against current Qantas Socceroo Carl Valeri.

Merenda, who is equally at home in defence or midfield, will not be eligible for selection for the Mariners- Hyundai A-League clash against the Wellington Phoenix at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday, but may soon feature in upcoming National Youth League and Hyundai A-League fixtures.

"We-ve enjoyed Andrea-s presence at our club for the past month or so and have been most impressed with his character and football ability during such time," said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman.

"With such extensive football experience in Italy, Andrea offers us something very different to what we-ve had previously and that excites us greatly - he-s fitted in superbly with our playing group and, given the chance, I-m certain that he can make a positive mark on the Hyundai A-League."

Merenda-s signing, albeit on a short-term basis, is a significant one for the Mariners, who up until today-s announcement had yet to engage the services of a foreign player made available from abroad.

Though the Mariners have German-born midfielder Andre Gumprecht on their books at present and were once home to Scotsman Stewart Petrie and Wayne O-Sullivan from the Republic of Ireland - each of the aforementioned had established playing reputations in Australia before signing on with the yellow and navy.

Indeed, should Merenda make an appearance in the Hyundai A-League during his stay on the Central Coast, he will become just the second Italian player to have contributed to the new era of football in Australia, behind former Sydney FC guest player Benito Carbone, who made a three-match cameo in 2006.

"I-m very happy, I feel very good in this group, all the players are very nice to me, the coach, the staff and the club," said Merenda.

"I said to my agent in Italy that I-d like to have an experience in Australia if that is possible, I hope to have a good experience here and I feel really good in this place.

"The Mariners team I think is a very good team, here things are good because you always try to have a smile on your face, but work hard, I think this team can do very, very well."

The Mariners- Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign continues at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday, 19 October, when they host the Wellington Phoenix in Round 8. Kick off is at 3pm.

Tickets for this match are on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.