Wilkinson skips along for another two years

The Central Coast Mariners preparations for tomorrow’s crucial Week 26 Hyundai A-League clash against Melbourne Heart have received a massive boost, with news that captain Alex Wilkinson has penned a new deal that will keep him at the club for a further two seasons.

The Central Coast Mariners preparations for tomorrow-s crucial Week 26 Hyundai A-League clash against Melbourne Heart have received a massive boost, with news that captain Alex Wilkinson has penned a new deal that will keep him at the club for a further two seasons.

Already the club-s most capped player, Wilkinson could have the chance to become the first ever player to represent the same club in 200 Hyundai A-League matches, with a new contract running through until the end of the 2012/13 season.

“Time has flown. I-m really happy with the way the club is going, especially this year, the squad is doing really well and I-m really happy to get my future sorted out and look forward to the next couple of years,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson has represented the club in 138 Hyundai A-League matches and will wear the captain-s armband against Melbourne Heart tomorrow night for the 99th time, testament to the 26-year-old-s importance to the club.

Wilkinson says he-s proud to be associated with such honours.

“I love it up here, I moved up here and I love the lifestyle. The club has stood by me and I have really enjoyed my time captaining the club, hopefully that can continue as well.

“We are doing really well this year but I think we are going to be even better in the next couple of years as we build, so really looking forward to that.

“We have been a very successful club to make two Grand Finals and win a Minor Premiership is fantastic, but in this country everyone is remembered for being Grand Final winners, so if we can get one of them in the next couple of years that-d be great,” said Wilkinson.

Not one to dwell on milestones when a job is to be done, Wilkinson will focus his attention on the crucial encounter at AAMI Park, where three points would virtually seal second spot for the Yellow and Navy, and catchable only on goal difference by Adelaide United.

“(Adelaide-s nil-all draw with Gold Coast last night) keeps them three points behind us and we have a game on them so a win on the weekend will go a long way to ensuring us top two.

“We have put ourselves in a good position to challenge for it, definitely. Our goal at the moment is to finish in the top two, and once the finals series starts it-s a completely different ball game, any one of the six teams can do well from there. I think we still have some improvement left in us and I know Arnie thinks we have so if we can achieve that improvement and continue going as we are, we can give it a good shake.

“For (Melbourne Heart) it-s do or die. If they don-t win I think it-s pretty much over for them so we-re expecting a tough game but we-re pretty confident we can go down there and get all three points if we continue to keep playing like we are at the moment,” Wilkinson said.

The Central Coast will travel to Melbourne full of confidence on the back of a six match unbeaten run including four victories, and Wilkinson says he-s incredibly proud of a squad which still has an outside chance of a second Minor Premiership in four seasons, despite being tipped to finish close to bottom by many at the beginning of the campaign.

“Credit to the boys, we have worked very hard from day one to put ourselves in the position we are in now, no one really expected that apart from the playing squad, we always had the belief that we were good enough to be up there but we were probably the only ones.

“It-s been great to really show everyone we are a good team, we have a lot of good footballers here, it-s exciting that I think we have a lot more improvement to come, not only this year but I-m sure we-ll be a better football team next year as well,” said Wilkinson.

The foundations of the Mariners- successful season started to be laid with an opening night victory over the Heart, where Wilkinson delivered the opening goal of the new campaign.

“You never know but the odds will probably be stacked against me! It was nice to score the first goal of the season but it doesn-t matter who scores, as long as we go down there and get the job done, come back here with three points, and look forward to the Gold Coast game,” Wilkinson said.

The Central Coast Mariners next match of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season will be against Melbourne Heart tomorrow, Friday, 4 February at AAMI Park, Melbourne. Kick-off is at 8:00pm AEDT.

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD and Sky Sports 3 (NZ). Hyundai A-League club broadcast partners are 96.3 Coast FM (Gosford). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au.

Head-to-Head: All matches (played 2): Central Coast Mariners wins 2, Melbourne Heart wins 0 (0 draws)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 20. Mathew RYAN (gk), 2. Daniel McBREEN, 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 6. Patrick ZWAANSWIJK, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 10. Patricio PEREZ, 11. Oliver BOZANIC, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 16. Trent SAINSBURY, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 22. Mustafa AMINI, 23. Adam WASNIK. 30. Paul HENDERSON (gk). *three to be omitted*

In: Matthew LEWIS, Trent SAINSBURY, Chris DOIG (all promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Jess VANSTRATTAN (knee - season), Bard PORTER (knee - 6 weeks), Nik MRDJA (knee - 6 weeks), Michael BAIRD (knee - 3 weeks).

Melbourne Heart squad: 1.Clint BOLTON (gk), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Brendan HAMILL, 4.Simon COLOSIMO, 5.Michael BEAUCHAMP, 6. Matt THOMPSON, 7.Rutger WORM, 8.Kristian SARKIES, 9.Gerald SIBON, 10.Wayne SRHOJ, 11.Alex TERRA, 12.Peter ZOIS (gk), 15.John ALOISI, 16.Aziz BEHICH, 17.Jason HOFFMAN, 20.Josip SKOKO, 22.Nick KALMAR *Two to be omitted*

In: Jason HOFFMAN (promoted), Brendan HAMILL (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Adrian ZAHRA (knee), Eli BABALJ (thigh)

Referee: Strebre DELOVSKI