Confidence, belief, leadership, unity - Stajcic asks finals-bound Mariners to let best qualities shine
Central Coast Mariners head coach Alen Stajcic says his side will need to call on all of their best assets, which helped end the club's six-season absence from the A-League Finals Series, if they hope to make a deep run into the 2020/21 post-season.
The Mariners clinched a third-place finish with a 2-0 win over Western United in their last game of the regular season on Saturday, June 5. The result helped the club coming into the season off the back of three successive last-place finishes to reach the Finals Series for the first time since 2013/14.
Speaking after his side's win over United, Stajcic said his players will be given the night to enjoy the drought-snapping achievement before attention turns to Macarthur FC - Central Coast's Elimination Final opponents.
The Mariners faced the Bulls three times in the 2020/21 season, winning every battle against the A-League newcomers.
"It doesn’t give me extra confidence or less confidence - just the same amount of confidence that I’d normally have," Stajcic told reporters, when asked about his side's strong record against Macarthur.
"I think they’re a really good team. Some fantastic footballers in their side, well coached, (a) well drilled team.
"We know how tough a challenge it is. We’ve had good results against them - they beat us in pre-season though, and I know the tools and weapons they’ve got in their locker and that will certainly be a tough challenge for both teams next week.
"I think any team in this top six can beat each other, and whoever turns up on the day is going to come way successful.
"I’m just pleased we go into each clash now knowing if we give ourselves the best opportunity of winning with how we played.
The confidence throughout the squad, the belief throughout the squad, the leadership, the unity - they’re not just throwaway lines in our team.
It’s something the team has built its foundations on, and that gives us every bit of confidence going into every match, and no doubt we’re going to need all of those qualities come next week and every finals match to come."
The feel-good stories have flown out of Gosford this season as Stajcic's side took the league by storm, bursting ahead in the race for the Premiers Plate early doors before levelling out to ultimately finish in third - the exact same result achieved in the 2013/14 campaign when the club last featured in the post-season.
The tide began to turn late in the 2019/20 campaign, when the Mariners put an 11-game losing run - the equal-worst run of its kind in A-League history - behind them with a pair of draws and a win to round out the season.
Stajcic took those three positive results into the off-season and got to work attempting to retain all the best assets his team displayed in the dying stages of the season gone by.
Beyond all odds Stajcic managed to do exactly that, bottling the energy generated from the turning of the tide to put together a fantastic 2020/21 campaign in which the Mariners won the same amount of games (12) as they managed in the past three seasons combined.
Whilst acknowledging the monumental effort of his players and staff in turning the club's fortunes around, Stajcic was quick to point out that although a Finals Series berth and a third-place finish were achievements to savour, a deep push into the post-season should now be the realistic goal of all those involved as the Mariners look to add more pages to the Gosford fairytale.
"I’ve mentioned it so many times this week, just an amazing effort from everyone at our club," Stajcic said.
"For us to finish third on the ladder is just really an unbelievable achievement, (it) just speaks to the unity and collectiveness of the whole group.
The playing group have been tremendous, the coaching staff have been tremendous, the whole football staff have been tremendous, the front office staff, everyone from the CEO down have been just fantastic.
Everyone has just dug in as deep as they could. Everyone’s had to do whatever they could in their own little field to ensure that we give the players the opportunity to play to their potential and the players have just flourished.
"So many players have had the best seasons they’ve had in the A-League.
"I’m just really proud of the group. The leadership group in particular. I just can’t give enough praise to all those people.
"But ultimately, that’s one part of the equation done.
"A fantastic campaign for us, but now there’s a new competition next week, so we’ll enjoy tonight but no doubt from midnight onwards we’re focussed on our next task at hand, which is a difficult one against Macarthur next week."
Match Details - Elimination Finals
Central Coast Mariners v Macarthur FC
Saturday, June 12 2021
Central Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEST
Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United
Sunday, June 13 2021
Moreton Daily Stadium
Kick-off: 3.05pm AEST
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