WHEN long time Central Coast Mariners midfield general John Hutchinson was completing the final stages of his four-month loan spell with Chengdu Blades - then of the Chinese Super League – last October, he was also keeping a keen eye on his parent club.
WHEN long time Central Coast Mariners midfield general John Hutchinson was completing the final stages of his four-month loan spell with Chengdu Blades - then of the Chinese Super League - last October, he was also keeping a keen eye on his parent club.
As Graham Arnold, Phil Moss, Andrew Clark and John Crawley ran the Mariners through their pre-season paces, Hutchinson kept tabs on the first team via the internet, as well as regular conversations with teammates, including good friend and club captain, Alex Wilkinson.
And although not privy to the day-to-day affairs of the training sessions or the culture-building sushi lunches the players shared on a regular basis, Hutchinson could tell from afar the Mariners were in for another successful season on and off the pitch.
He was right.
Heading into this weekend-s final round of the Hyundai A-League regular season, the Gosford-based club have again outshone their opponents from the big smoke.
Guaranteed the Premier-s Plate should they claim all three points against Ricki Herbert-s Wellington Phoenix team on Sunday, the Mariners have also all but sewn up their participation in the 2013 edition of the AFC Champions League - their third involvement in Asia-s showpiece club tournament and a competition they are currently more than holding their own in.
By any reckoning it-s been another stellar season for the boys from Bluetongue.
But it-s not over yet.
“I was over in China at the start of the season watching in on the boys doing the pre-season and the first few rounds,” Hutchinson said. “I believed then that we would be in the top six.”
“When I came back I saw the motivation of the boys and that the new boys had all mingled in really well as a team. (Then) I believed that we could make the top two and we have.”
“The team is all about belief and hard work for ourselves and everyone else involved in the club, and it-s got us places this year and hopefully after the Wellington game our hard work pays off.”
As one of the Mariners- most experienced campaigners, Maltese international Hutchinson has just about seen it all when it comes to Hyundai A-League football. He knows to take nothing for granted and the importance of playing each match patiently, strategically and with confidence.
“We want to handle our own destiny. If we win the game we win the league,” he said.
“It-s going to be a tough one. They-re (Wellington Phoenix) a good team and they-re hard to break down. They-ve got some very good players and on their day we-ve seen them defeat any team in the league.”
“We know that if we don-t go with out best game they-ll beat us so they boys are pretty pumped. We-ve got a game plan to go there with and I think if we stick to that game plan we-ll get the points we need.”
The Mariners- bid for their second Premier-s Plate commences at 4pm local time (2pm AEDT) on Sunday 25 March.
The team will then turn their attention to the Hyundai A-League Finals Series with home and away duels against Brisbane Roar now set down for March 31 (Away) and April 8 (Home), as well as an AFC Champions League Matchday 3 meeting with the K-League-s Seongnam Ilwha Chunma on Tuesday 3 April at Central Coast Stadium.