Huke hoping for home debut

Eleven months since first arriving on the Central Coast, Mariners’ midfielder Shane Huke could be finally set to make his Bluetongue Stadium debut in the Hyundai A-League after overcoming a serious knee injury and making his first A-League appearance in Yellow and Navy against Sydney FC last Wednesday.

Eleven months since first arriving on the Central Coast, Mariners- midfielder Shane Huke could be finally set to make his Bluetongue Stadium debut in the Hyundai A-League after overcoming a serious knee injury and making his first A-League appearance in Yellow and Navy against Sydney FC last Wednesday.

Huke, originally signed for the club-s maiden Asian Champions League campaign, won a contract extension after some impressive showings in the AFC-s premier club competition, only to succumb to the injury in just his second appearance of the side-s pre-season campaign, against North Queensland Fury in Rockhampton back in June.

However, after returning to the playing field and netting two goals from his nine National Youth League appearances, combined with an hour of game time against Sydney FC last week, Huke is primed to take his place in Lawrie McKinna-s squad for the New Year-s Eve blockbuster against Wellington Phoenix at Bluetongue Stadium this Thursday.

"It-s annoying being injured for so long, but I feel like I-ve worked hard, and I-m a month ahead of where they (the physiotherapists) said I should be (in my recovery), I got back playing with the Youth team, and I-m just really pleased to have made an appearance," said Huke.

Huke admits it-s been tough to spend almost a year at a club without being involved, and being forced to watch from the stands.

"Especially for nerves and things like that, they are all gone now and it was good to finally, after so long, make a debut. Sometimes you feel like an outcast but it is good now I am back in the thick of things.

"It is strange, I-ve been here since February and it was my first A-League game, but it was good to get it under my belt, and hopefully there will be a few more before the end of the season," Huke said.

The Mariners- will be without experienced defenders Dean Heffernan and Nigel Boogaard for the New Year-s Eve showpiece through Qantas Socceroo duty and suspension respectively, and Huke hopes he can retain his place in the starting eleven in front of what is hoped will be the club-s biggest home crowd of the season.

Huke even joked he-d be willing to deputise for goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, also on assignment with Pim Verbeek-s Qantas Socceroos.

"To be honest I-d play in goal if it got me a game," laughed Huke.

"I don-t mind, I don-t know what the “gaffer” is thinking, he may change the formation, that-s up to him, but hopefully I will be in and around selection, which would be good."

Born in the UK before emigrating to Brisbane with his family as a youngster, Huke returned to his homeland to chase the dream of becoming a professional footballer, sacrificing time with his loved ones in the process, something which is especially hard at this time of year.

So, combined with his place in the squad last week, having his family close by this time around, has made the festive period even more special.

Huke hopes another starting appearance, and most importantly, three vital competition points against Wellington, will help make it an even better start to 2010.

"It would be absolutely fantastic on New Year-s Eve. I haven-t spent many years with my family, especially over the New Year, it-s been probably about nine years, so it-d be a good thing personally, and for the club," said Huke.

The Mariners- next home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be the New Years Eve extravaganza against Wellington Phoenix on Thursday, 31 December. Kick-off is at 6:00pm. Tickets are available online here or by phoning 132 849.

For more information about the Gosford New Year-s Eve festival go to www.gosfordnye.com.au

Mariners Four Match Christmas Packs are available online by clicking here