John Aloisi says he's expecting to see a full house at Central Coast Stadium when his former side end their six-season wait to play Finals Series football in Gosford on Saturday, June 12.
The Mariners head to the post-season for the first time since the 2013/14 A-League campaign, with an Elimination Final bout against A-League newcomers Macarthur FC at Central Coast Stadium ending the drought on Saturday night.
It puts an end to a gloomy spell at a club which notched just two finishes outside the top four in its first nine A-League seasons.
Former A-League striker and head coach Aloisi was part of the Mariners side than won the club's first piece of silverware: the 2007/08 Premiers Plate. Finishing top of the table earned Central Coast a spot in the two-legged Major Semi Final bout with the Jets which pitted the top two sides against each other for a spot in the Grand Final.
The Mariners lost the first leg against Newcastle 2-0 before turning it all around at Central Coast Stadium. Adam Kwasnik opened the scoring on that day in February, 2008, before a Sasho Petrovski brace completed the turnaround in front of 19,112 fans.
Aloisi says the current Mariners side are recapturing the magic cast over Gosford along that memorable run to the 2008 Grand Final.
"The Finals Series was really good because we played Newcastle in the Major Semi Final," Aloisi said.
"It was a full house at Central Coast Stadium, and then playing the final at Sydney Football Stadium, it was great.
You could just sense the community of the Central Coast get together - and I think it’s happening again.
Especially seeing the big crowd they had the other night, and I’m sure there’ll be a big crowd there on Saturday night. They’re expecting over 10,000 but I’d love a full house there."
Fast-forward to 2021, and the Mariners are preparing for their first taste of Finals Series football since a 2-0 Semi Final defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers on April 26, 2014.
Macarthur are the opponents for Alen Stajcic's side - a team the Mariners beat three times in the regular season. But according to Aloisi, the Bulls have one definite advantage when preparing to take on the third-place finishers: experience.
With the likes of former Socceroos Mark Milligan, Adam Federici and serial A-League winner Ivan Franjic, Spanish duo Markel Susaet and Beñat Etxebarria and veteran English striker Matt Derbyshire, Aloisi says Macarthur head coach Ante Milicic may just have enough seasoned heads in his squad to deal with the pressure of a Finals Series game better than Stajcic's side.
"It’s an interesting one," he said.
"I still think Macarthur, because of the experience they have got, these games they’ll know how to play because they’re different games.
"With (Milligan) in there, and that experience of (Adam) Federici, Derbyshire, Franjic who has been to a lot of Grand Finals.
"Whereas Mariners, Matty Simon and (Oli) Bozanic are the ones that have to try and lead the players, because they’re the ones with that experience.
"But the others, the young players, this will be new for them.
"It is different, and it has been that the inconsistencies of both sides of late has been there, but that’s out the window now."
"It’s very open, probably the most open Finals I can remember," Aloisi added.
"You look at all the games, or all the teams, and anyone can really beat anyone.
"It does bring Melbourne City back into (the pack), with the players that they’re missing.
"They’ve got a very good squad and really talented young players, but it does bring it all back to a bit of a leveller.
"It’s exciting for the sides that have qualified because that means they’ve got a good opportunity."
Match details and ticketing information - Finals Series
Melbourne City v Lowest Ranked Elimination Final Winner
Friday, June 18 2021
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEST
GRAND FINAL: Winner SF 1 v Winner SF2
Saturday, June 26 2021
Note: Fixtures are subject to change. Please check www.a-league.com.au/fixtures for latest updates
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