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Central Coast Mariners vs Macarthur FC, elimination final, how the Mariners found their soul again



The soul of a football club can be traced back to people.

The people attached to a club give it soul. The way those people hunt success gives it soul. And the spontaneous reactions of elation or grief of said people give it soul. And winning sure as hell helps.

The Central Coast Mariners have the right people. And with it, they have won their people back.

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Watch Central Coast Mariners v Macaurthur FC in their A-League elimination final of Fox Sports and Kayo on Saturday night

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From day dot, the Mariners have been a club that really, when you look at it through the prism of capitalism, had no right to compete on a consistent basis with bigger clubs with deeper pockets, more expensive seats and players with impressive right columns on Wikipedia.

From day dot, the Mariners punched above. They were born in 2004 to give the Central Coast an identity. Central Coast? Of what?

The joint an hour north of Sydney filled with people who were either sick of the big smoke, or sick of the idea of trying to live there. Just before the Mariners, rugby league’s Northern Eagles tried to give the Coast an identity but royally screw up by playing half their home games in Sydney. Wrong.

Straight away the Mariners connected to the region, and with it, the soul of a club grew.

In many respects, Matt Simon’s story epitomises that of how the Mariners got, then lost, and have now regained its soul.

Why Mariners faithful, who have had their belief tested like no priest or nun could care to imagine, are floating on clouds again.

Simon got noticed when inaugural Coach Lawrie McKinna went to a local grand final and noticed this mad blond kid causing havoc for East Gosford. The mad blond kid wouldn’t need to be an apprentice plasterer for much longer.

And right away, Simon cared for the club. He left everything out there, or at least, on opposition centre backs. He was no blow-in from Sydney. Until he went to Sydney.

Someone in mid-2015 had a really bad day at the Mariners. That’s when they told Matt Simon he could leave.

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While gone for three years, the Mariners won 13 games. Out of 81. The owner, Mike Charlesworth, who took over in 2013, copped the brunt of the flak. Charlesworth was accused of stripping back what was already bare. When yarns spread like Charlesworth telling the coaching staff they should get players to lift up their own players from corners like they do in rugby union lineouts to ‘innovate’, you could see what his name was murmured in strange tones. And then he went and tried to sign Usain Bolt.

Matt Simon was back from Sydney by then, the Mariners realised an error, but not just his return could stop the bleeding.

Then Alen Stajcic staggered through the door, still hurting from his Matildas sacking. The man can coach. Even his old Matildas, not wanting to delve into reasons why the past is the past, freely admit his brilliance as a coach.

Stajcic accepted the Mariners underdog status, the Charlesworth ways, and worked away.

Gave kids like Josh Nisbet, told he was too short by most, working at a local Woolworths on a scholarship contract, a chance. Gave prospects like Alou Kuol, the Sudanese refugee rejected by other A-League clubs, a place to be himself. Gave people like Oli Bozanic a reason to quit Europe and come home to help teach the team to win.

The winning returned. And with the winning, the smiles got wider. The same people who smiled at you when you arrived at games for Gosford were proud again. Like Pat Tatum, always there in the tunnel at home games, guarding the home dressing room door or helping out anyway he can. Always says g’day. Always asks how you are. Never seen Pat without a smile this season.

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Or Jake Banks, the number one supporter for the Mariners, who is consigned to a wheelchair because his body has betrayed him. The mind is still razor sharp. His thoughts rarely stray far from thinking about his Mariners. And at home games, from his regular spot, you can hear him bellow that little bit louder this season.

The joint has its soul back, and tomorrow it will be jumping, praying this new lot from Macarthur won’t be cruel.

Macarthur are searching for their soul because the way A-League clubs are set up you can’t be born with one. Sounds crass, but they are firstly franchises. You buy in. You set the club up. How you set the club up is the path to finding a soul.

Macarthur’s way is to win first, then the rest will follow.

They have aimed for excellence in their first season, with a meticulous, almost scientific approach to preparing footballers to win. Coaches sit with iPad’s on the bench, physical staff sit with iPad’s behind the bench, the minute a player ‘redlines’, a sub is summonsed.

Coach Ante Milicic lives for football. His entire garden of thoughts growing wild with ways to win games. He clutches his black book like worry-beads, and a little like a mad scientist convinced someone will copy his patent, covers his mouth with it to whisper messages to assistants. Milicic wants possession-based football to pick apart the opposition. There is gut-feel and nuance to the process, but it does lend itself to an overarching algorithm.

Off the park, Macarthur’s long game is to attach itself to the Campbelltown area. The region, like the Central Coast, detached from the big smoke enough to claim its own identity is growing quickly. Steps like a training base and academy in the area are the right ones. Convincing Uli Davila to leave Wellington for a project worth being a part of is another. There’s talk the NRL’s Wests Tigers are about to bail on playing games there. That’s an opportunity for Macarthur. None can be wasted. It is a long road. Who is to say they won’t have a soul sometime soon.

It is certain, though, they are stuffed without one. They have to find one, and keep it.

The Mariners know that all too well, and it all starts when you mix people and winning.

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Ange Postecoglou appointed Celtic manager, Scottish and UK media reaction, latest news



Aussie Ange Postecoglou has been set the enormous task of restoring Scottish giants Celtic’s supremacy over bitter rivals Rangers after being officially appointed the club’s new manager.

The 55-year-old former Socceroos boss has signed a 12-month rolling contract and fills the vacancy left open when Neil Lennon resigned in late February.

It represents one of the biggest assignments handed to an Australian in world football, and while this side of the world will be watching on with hope and interest, the pressure will be immediately on Postecoglou in Scotland.

The initial shock of being linked with the job appears to have passed, with Scottish media and fan reaction now focused on the enormity of the task facing the Australian.

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In an announcement media release Postecoglou described the new gig as “one of the greatest honours in football” and in a televised interview with the club he spoke of his passion for attacking football and how his had pictures of Celtic and Scotland hero Kenny Dalglish on his will as a kid.

Graeme McGarry, writing for Scotland’s The Herald, said it would have been comforting words for Celtic fans given “there is a narrative surrounding this left-field appointment that suggests Postecoglou is some clueless outsider who couldn’t possibly know what he is letting himself in for”

“His working life so far may well not suggest ample preparation for the pressure and intensity that awaits him in Glasgow, but by relaying this story (about Dalglish), he was making it clear to Celtic supporters that he understands the principles upon which their club stands, and is fully aware of what he is expected to produce on the field for them.

“If indeed there is any substance to the rather woolly concept of ‘The Celtic Way’, then Postecoglou would – on the face of it – appear to have a philosophy that dovetails with the theory perfectly.”

McGarry said the biggest challenge facing the Australian would be time.

“A theme of the many testimonials backing him in recent weeks has been the need to give him time to get his ideas across,” he wrote.

“It will be fascinating to see if Postecoglou can get enough results to keep a notoriously impatient legion of fans happy after what will be a short honeymoon period while his players are still getting used to his methods.

“For his part, he certainly seems confident he can overcome such early obstacles, with his thoughts already occupied by leaving a lasting legacy at the club.”

Former Celtic star Chris Sutton used a somewhat-bizarre cricket analogy to describe the appointment and Ewan Murray, writing for The Guardian, also declared it a huge gamble.

“With Scotland’s 2021-22 title winners (Rangers) almost guaranteed a Champions League group stage place for the following campaign, Celtic have gambled on Postecoglou when the stakes could barely be higher,” Murray wrote.

“And make no mistake, this is a gamble; taking any coach into territory so far from their natural habitat dictates that. Postecoglou has no connection with Celtic and no working experience at a club of their stature.

“…It may well be that Postecoglou is a fine manager. Enough learned judges, particularly in his native Australia, certainly think so. He has a commitment to attacking football and a single-mindedness which should serve him well. He looks capable of shrugging off Old Firm noise.

“Yet background questions linger. Postecoglou, we are told, needs time to implement his philosophy. That commodity is not available to Celtic. Howe’s volte face was confirmed on 28 May. Postecoglou – confirmed on 10 June – has to quarantine when he arrives in Scotland. The statement that confirmed his arrival included input from “incoming” and “outgoing” chief executives. There was no detail about broader structural change. Small issues, but ones that hardly help the optics.”

“… Postecoglou has to rebuild a team and oversee a complete change in external attitudes in his first job in European football. He is 55. Albeit this continent is not where football starts and ends, it is fair to question why no club of substance in Europe hired him before, especially after guiding Yokohama to league success in 2019.”

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Andrew Smith, writing for The Scotsman, said while Postecoglou was seen by some as a “random, rushed, poor second choice” after a deal fell through with Eddie Howe, there could be a silver lining.

“Oddly, though, the biggest plus of Postecoglou might also be that he is not Howe. Celtic’s powerbrokers initial instincts on all matters across the past 12 months have proved hideously flawed,” Smith wrote.

“Postecoglou might not have been the man that they, or the club’s fanbase, originally wanted.

“He could, though, be precisely the sort of man they need – big in stature, personality and unshakeable convictions over fizzing, front-foot attacking football in Celtic’s best traditions. While Howe ultimately slinked away from the febrile world of the Scottish game, Postecoglou has bounded towards it, rubbing his hands and with chest puffed out.”

Smith also wrote the obstacles to success should “frighten the wits” out of Postecolgou.

“The club is at its lowest ebb for two decades following Rangers’ romp to the championship by 25 points. It is fewer than seven weeks until Celtic contest the opening leg of their third round Champions League qualifier. With their previous reliance of loan players no longer in their fold and doubts surrounding the immediate futures of Leigh Griffiths, Edouard and Ajer, even a skeleton XI would be difficult to construct.

“When it comes to the striking department, central defence and the full-back roles – to say nothing of the goalkeeping issues – having merely the bare bones is likely to require a raft of signings. There is little precedent for new arrivals coming good in opening European sorties with which Celtic begin their season…The Champions League might then be a write-off. If that proves the case then Postecoglou, however unfairly, will immediately be on the back-foot – even if this is where he demands his teams never find themselves.”

Ange Postecoglou.Source: Getty Images

Kieran Devlin, writing for The Athletic, agreed Postecoglou would be starting at a “severe disadvantage” with the first team squad in total disarray.

But he said the Australian has a “hell of a career” behind him suggesting he could make it work, with glowing references from former players perhaps even more telling than his successes.

The piece included a staggering reference from A-League legend Thomas Broich who described his former Brisbane Roar boss Postecoglou as “a very visionary man”.

“He outlines his plans and playing philosophy. As a player you think, ‘I’ve heard these things before. They’re just pretty words’. But when I actually got to work with him, he delivered to the extreme. I could not believe it. With him, it was not just words. He had such a crystal-clear plan, and he stuck to every single word of it.”

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Euro 2020 news, England, starting line up, injuries, latest, start time, where to watch Australia, transfer news, gossip rumours



Traditionally, Australians and the English don’t get on particularly well when it comes to sport.

Picture Jonny Wilkinson in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, or Greg Norman and Nick Faldo battling it out in the 1990s, or any of the eight Rugby League World Cup finals the two nations have faced off in, or Stuart Broad in just about any situation with the Barmy Army behind him.

Australians, along with the likes of Argentina, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany and few others, are usually core members of the ABE Club (Anyone But England).

Yet, with the delayed European Championships kicking off this weekend, it’s harder to dislike England than ever before.

They are team of young, vibrant, intelligent men with fresh ideas and the confidence to stand up for what they believe in – and that’s before they even get onto the field.

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England will need to lean on their attack. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)
England will need to lean on their attack. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)Source: AFP

How can you not love Marcus Rashford for single-handedly taking on the British government over their refusal to provide free meals for children of families who couldn’t afford to feed them outside of school time?

He was the most charitable sportsperson in the UK last year, and fifth on the list was Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, another who has used his voice over issues such as foodbanks, the LBGT+ community and racism.

Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire are two of the others who have used the platform they have for the greater good.

Their head coach, Gareth Southgate, has given many a speech about society and those booing his players for taking the knee in the face of racism and social media hate.

In short, they’re a group of extremely likeable and grounded young men – and they could be about to end a 55 painful years of international heartbreak.

Since England last won an international tournament at the 1966 World Cup, they have been a constant disappointment, overpromising and underdelivering.

Even a team featuring David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Gary Neville and Ashley Cole could never make it past quarter-finals so why should this team?

Well, this team arguably has the most exciting attacking outfit in the whole competition and it really is a lottery as to who starts where.

Harry Kane, who scored 23 goals and added 14 assists in the Premier League last season is a certainty but Southgate is spoiled for choice around him.

Rashford has just had his best ever season for Manchester United, Jadon Sancho is set for a big-money move to join him while Jack Grealish is attracting high praise from the best manager and player in the Premier League in Pep Guardiola and Kevin De Bruyne.

The scary thing is all three of those players are likely to start on the bench with Premier League winner and Champions League finalists Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling on the two wings and Champions League winner Mason Mount starting in the No.10 position.

Then with x-factors like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who scored 25 goals in 48 games in all competitions last season, and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka there is plenty of attacking excellence to enjoy.

Grealish and Rashford likely won’t even start. (Photo by Lee Smith – Pool/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

After that, it gets a little less exciting however.

Despite having five of the best full backs in the Premier League – six if you include the injured Trent Alexander Arnold – the spine of the team looks a little weak. Harry Maguire is struggling for fitness and without him, John Stones doesn’t look as sturdy with Tyrone Mings next to him. It will probably push Southgate to go three at the back and sacrifice an attacker as a result. That’s how much of a blow the Manchester United captain’s recent injury could be.

England have a nice group. Croatia aren’t the same team that knocked them out of the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and while Scotland are capable of a massive upset because of the emotion involved for both countries, it looks unlikely.

Although winning the group is a bit of a poisoned chalice. Win, and they face the runner-up of the dreaded Group of Death – meaning either France, Germany or Portugal, or the current World Cup holders, the previous World Cup winners or the current Euros holders.

Finishing second would put them on the other side of the draw and while a more fanciable last-16 draw against probably Poland, the winner for that Group of Death will be waiting in the quarter-finals.

There is an argument that it is more difficult to win the Euros than to win the World Cup because you can’t avoid good teams at any stage of the tournament, meaning there are always a couple of big names that are cut far earlier than they should be.

That’s why the pressure and expectation isn’t perhaps as high as they usually are, and exactly why they could perhaps finally end the now 55 years of pain.

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