Central Coast Mariners forward Blake Powell says there has been a big jump in intensity at training under new coach Paul Okon as he prepares to face former club Wellington Phoenix this weekend.
With the Hyundai A-League season just three weeks away, the Mariners are keen to keep building on combinations under their new boss against the Nix at Knox Grammar on Saturday.
While the Mariners had their scheduled friendly against Brisbane Roar last weekend washed out, the Phoenix made a huge statement with a 4-1 drubbing of Melbourne City in Townsville.
For Powell – along with fellow Mariner Kwabena Appiah – it’s a first chance to get one over the club they played at in 2015/16. And he’s happy to pass on any information he can to help his side.
“I’m excited. It will be good to see all the guys again and I’m looking forward to catching up with them. Every soccer player would like bragging rights [against their former club],” Powell admitted to reporters on Thursday.
“But the main thing for me is to do my job well, if I do that I can hopefully set up other players and they can finish the job off.
Powell has been one of the Mariners most consistent performers in pre-season so far and says he’s relishing the no.10 role he’s being deployed in under Okon.
“It’s about me getting on that half turn and facing forward and playing those balls in for Connor Pain and Roy [O’Donovan] to go on and finish,” the 25-year-old said.
“We talk every day at training to try and familiarise ourselves with each other and different runs. It’s coming along well.
“I’ve seen a big improvement in the team since Paul’s come in. We’re training at a higher intensity which means our fitness is getting up there as well so we can compete,” Powell added on Okon.
“We have the talent in the team as well, so we can test ourselves against any team in the A-League.”
For Appiah, he spent 18 months in Wellington but had little opportunity in the first team, with most of his 16 appearances coming off the bench.
But he struck up a good friendship with Phoenix’s Dutchman Roly Bonevacia and he expects the banter to be flying between the pair on Saturday.
“There’s always banter with that guy,” Appiah said with a smile.
“He’s doesn’t take things in life too seriously, he just goes with it.
“It will be good to play against him, he’s a good person and he helped me a lot in my time in Wellington when I wasn’t too happy.”
The livewire winger is hoping for a fresh start in Gosford after stints at the Wanderers and Phoenix, and has found the net a couple of times during pre-season.
But it’s transferring that form into the Hyundai A-League which Appiah really wants, yet to find the back of the net in more than 40 appearances dating back to his debut in 2012.
“I’m very, very hungry. I’m going ballistic…I need to break that A-League duck,” Appiah said.
“I’ve got confidence building up from scoring goals [in pre-season] and leading into the season, given the right opportunity if I do score it will open the floodgates.”