John Hutchinson is set for a final swansong in Central Coast Mariners colours when he heads to AAMI Park to take on Melbourne Victory on Sunday night.
Hutchinson is the last foundation player still with the club and will lead the Mariners out onto the AAMI Park turf in his record 228th and final appearance in the Hyundai A-League.
Facing the Mariners, are a rampant Victory side who are all but assured of securing the Premier’s Plate after their successful road trip to Brisbane. In back to back matches against the Roar at Suncorp Stadium, the Victory secured all six points and virtually guaranteed top spot.
The Mariners meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back after last week’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss in Wellington, and while they may be playing for pride, the yellow and navy will be out to spoil Victory’s party and send Hutch off in style.
Hutch spoke ahead of the encounter and admitted he was excited to square off against a top quality side in his last match, but more importantly to bid farewell to friends and family in his home state of Victoria.
“It’s a big crowd, they’ve been playing the best football in the league this season I feel. It’s a big challenge for us, we went down there last time and took them all the way and they ended up beating us 2-1, but we put in a good performance and it just didn’t bounce our way,” Hutchinson said.
“For me personally, going back to Victoria, where I’m from, Mum and Dad and all my family and friends will be at the last game that I ever play as a professional, it’s a nice feeling, they get to watch me one last time and I get to play the sport that I love.
“I just want to play. I’m disappointed that my playing career is coming to an end but it’s time. The mind and the heart still want it but the body starts slowing down and starts hurting after games more and more.
“You see the young ones coming through like Rose and Kalik and you don’t want to be that old man that stops them furthering their career because you’ve played one season too many.”
Victory will be looking to use the encounter to flex their muscle ahead of the finals series and with a squad containing the likes of Besart Berisha, Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Mark Milligan and Archie Thompson, the Big V will be a tough ask on home soil.
Victory lead the league in scoring this season, having netted 53 times and despite the quality of their attack, Tony Walmsley’s men have no plans to park the bus and will view the encounter as an important step towards building their attacking brand of football ahead of 2015/16.
As the Mariners move into a new era, Hutch admitted that it had begun to sink in that his days with the club were almost up.
“It’s been emotional, the other day after the New Zealand game, I come home, you realise it’s your last week as a professional footballer, something I’ve done for 19 years, it is emotional. I just want to play the game, and enjoy myself with my mates one last time,” Hutchinson said.
“I’m just looking forward to going out and trying to put a performance on that the Central Coast will be proud of.”
MATT NASH - With Liam Reddy out suspended, Matt Nash has been given the opportunity to take the gloves against the Victory. The Mariners no. 1 has only featured once this season against Sydney FC, however he will be looking to frustrate the Victory for 90 minutes and ensure the yellow and navy finish up with a clean sheet.
LAST TIME WE MET - March 27, AAMI Park
The Mariners last played the Victory only a few weeks ago, going down 2-1 at AAMI Park in a Friday night encounter. Isaka Cernak netted in the 32nd minute, however the Victory fought back through a Gui Finkler brace to claim all three points.
Round 27 Sunday 26 April 2015
Match: Melbourne Victory vs. Central Coast Mariners
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 5:00pm (AEST)
Television: Live on FOX SPORTS 505
Radio: Live on 96.3 Coast FM & ABC Grandstand
Twitter: Join the match conversation using #MVCvCCM #ThanksHutch