The Central Coast Mariners moved to sixth in the Hyundai A-League table and showed they are potential finals contenders after a narrow 1-0 win over Western United in a closely fought game where the Mariners showed dogged determination to defend their lead for a large part of the second half.
The turnaround at the Mariners under coach Alen Stajcic owes much to the Mariners approach to youth development.
Stajcic handed a starting league debut to fullback Lewis Miller, alongside Gianni Stensness and Sam Silvera who are all scholarship players recruited by the Mariners this season.
All three players played well with Miller excelling at fullback after a strong cameo role last week and the boss was full of praise for him post-match.
“It was a big occasion, his first start in the A-League and I thought he did a fantastic job,” Stajcic said.
“He’s such a powerful young kid on the ball and there was one run there in the second half where he got a little bit confident which is definitely a trait of his.”
“When he grows into a fully-fledged senior player he’s going to be superb, and with a few more games and a bit more maturity we will have a great platform to build this club around.”
“Three quarters of this team are new to the squad, and today we had three scholarship players starting so to have three kids on the field starting and doing so well for us is really important. “
“We are in the top six and we are certainly building a good foundation for the club to build on for the next period of time.”
Adding to the youth impact was Josh Nisbet’s introduction in the second half and he was crucial as the Mariners fought to keep their advantage with time winding down.
“We have done a lot of work on getting the Mariners Academy back on track – all the team there led by Ken Schembri and Nick Montgomery are doing a great job and as a coaching team we are all working well together to help recruit and develop the players we believe have real potential,” Stajcic added.
Mariners Chairman Mike Charlesworth echoed Stajcic’s sentiments around the club’s youth program.
“It’s great to see the first team be competitive again and congratulations to Alen and his staff,” Charlesworth said after Sunday’s win.
“The Board and everyone involved at the club have all worked hard to get the club back on track and I am particularly pleased to see our young players come through the first team and this is testimony to the great work now being done at the Mariners Academy.”
“Apart from being competitive and winning games, we have also set our sights on creating the A-League players of the future - and I am pleased to say that we appear well on track to achieve this target in coming years.’
The Central Coast Mariners are committed to providing an Academy environment that allows today's brightest talents to develop into tomorrow's best players.