Nick Fitzgerald is desperate to make it an unhappy homecoming for Sydney FC and their ex-Mariners in Saturday’s Hyundai A-League clash at Central Coast Stadium. And he couldn’t resist a gentle dig at former boss Graham Arnold.
“Arnie” brings his league-leading Sky Blues to Gosford looking to make it four wins in a row against his former club.
There’s a very Central Coast feel to Sydney FC and it’s not just the Arnold link.
Former Mariners players Matt Simon and Zac Anderson are amongst the Sky Blues squad while Andrew Clark and John Crawley are part of Arnold’s coaching staff.
“It will be good to see Arnie out in his former backyard. Hopefully it’s big enough for him,” Fitzgerald said with a wry smile on Tuesday in reference to Arnold's mansion jibe at Wanderers last week.
“I know [Arnold] was talking about Pirtek Stadium being tiny, hopefully he’s got some kind words to say about his former home ground at Central Coast Stadium.
“I’m still good I’m mates with Zac, we stay in touch nearly every week. It will be goodmo [Matt Simon] as well. I’ve known Simmo since I was 16,” he added.
“It will be great to see those boys come back but hopefully they don’t get the result and we can get on top of them.”
After an opening round win, the Mariners have lost their last two on the road and Fitzgerald is pumped to be back in front of the Gosford faithful.
The 23-year-old has been in strong touch to see him and Sim to start the season and scored a 25-yard screamer against Melbourne City last Sunday.
Now the challenge for Fitzgerald is producing that on a more consistent basis as he settles into a new role under Tony Walmsley.
“It’s a new position for me in midfield and you have to remember Fab [Ferreira] hasn’t been here long, same as Mitch [Austin] so it’s just getting used to the players and how they work,” he explained.
“But some of the combinations, especially between Anthony Caceres and Mitch Austin down the left and myself and Fab trying to work that combination down the right.
“Roy [O’Donovan] is making some great runs, it just about us getting used to the runs he makes and us delivering that final ball.
“I think we’re playing the style of football that we wanted to play at the start of the year. We need to tighten things up at the back and be more clinical at the front but we’re going in the right direction I think,” he added.
Saturday’s clash will mark a home debut for the Mariners young ‘keeper Paul Izzo, who’s taken the number one jersey in place of the stood-down Liam Reddy.
While admitting he wasn’t expecting to get a start in these circumstances, Izzo plans on making the most of his shock opportunity.
And he says there’s no chance the Mariners will tone down their gung-ho attacking philosophy, even after back-to-back defeats.
“Playing attacking as we do we have to prepare as best as we can because we know we could be vulnerable at the back,” Izzo said.
“But that’s the way we want to play because we’re trying to win games. We don’t want to grind out results, we want to be as entertaining as we can.
“The crowd makes a massive difference when you’re playing at home and hopefully this time with our attacking style, the crowd getting behind us we’ll get a better result and do it for the fans.”