The Central Coast Mariners are gearing up for back-to-back pre-season matches against Wellington Phoenix and we caught up with Paul Okon before the team departs to New Zealand.
This Saturday’s match will be the second pre-season fixture in as many weeks against the Wellington Phoenix after the Yellow Navy’s 1-0 loss to the Kiwis last Saturday at Knox Grammar.
After wholesale substitutions in the second half, Okon was able to observe all of his players in action and will travel to Nelson eager to see his team take the next step during pre-season.
Despite the result, Okon reflected positively on Saturday’s performance in both defence and attack.
“We were very happy with how the game went last week, we used the ball quite well and dominated Wellington,” Okon said. “We didn’t quite have that cutting edge in the front third but that’s certainly an area we need to do a lot of work on.
“We defended from the front with plenty of energy and our goalkeeper was rarely tested so all-in-all a good day for us,” Okon said.
Looking ahead to this Saturday’s clash against Ernie Merrick's ‘Nix “Paolo’ said that the performance is most important but also placed value on heading home with a win to his name.
“I want to win anything I play in, the result is important because we want to build a winning mentality,” Okon said. “That winning culture doesn’t just start in round one, you want to see it through out the pre-season so I was disappointed that we didn’t get the result last weekend.
“In saying that, the main focus is on the way we play this Saturday and we are really looking forward to getting away for a couple of days which can help with team harmony and we’ve been told that we are playing on a really good surface.
“Hopefully we can come away from New Zealand with a good performance, a result and no injuries,” Okon said.
When asked about the team’s injury ward and the progress of Fabio Ferreira, Okon spoke confidently about the Portuguese attacker’s progress.
“Fab’s numbers are where we expect them to be, he’s a top athlete and these sorts of injuries are going to happen to guys who can run that fast and he’s looking more confident after every session so he will get game time on Saturday and hopefully we continue to build him up for round one,” Okon said.
Okon reflected on his first few weeks at the Central Coast Mariners and said he is “enjoying the challenge.”
“I’m enjoying the challenge, coming in here every day working with the players, learning more about the players and staff, trying to improve this football team and getting them to the level that I want to get my football team to play and we’re doing that every day,” Okon said.
“Our first big challenge is on the 8th of October then we have another 26 rounds after that where we want to be consistent in our performances and we want to win football games,” Okon said