A 5-1 thumping of his former club gave Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold a bittersweet return to Gosford Stadium on Saturday night.
On one hand it kept the Sky Blues’ hopes of catching the top four alive, but on the other, it was a harsh blow to the side he’d served for so many years.
Arnold’s return wasn’t made much easier in the lead-up to the match with the Mariners waging a “cashed up Arnie” campaign in the local paper, urging fans to print off novelty notes featuring his face.
Clearly annoyed, the Sydney FC coach said the gimmick didn’t reflect the true nature of the club.
“I want to say that the Mariners are special in my heart and are a fantastic club with beautiful people and they’ve done a lot for my career and a lot of players’ careers,” Arnold said after the match.
“I don’t worry too much about anything.
“I think it damaged their players more than anything because on the Tuesday night I got five text messages from players who sent me the photo from the back page of the local newspaper, and said ‘look how disrespectful this club has become.’”
Arnold had the last laugh though as his side went up 2-0 inside 20 minutes and never looked back.
They dominated every facet of the game with Marc Janko scoring a brace and Christopher Naumoff, Bernie Ibini and Alex Brosque all on the scoresheet.
Despite the emphatic score-line, Arnold remained somewhat subdued each time his team found the back of the net.
“That’s out of my respect for the Mariners,” he explained.
“I love the club and people. I had so many text messages of support it was ridiculous – probably close to 200.
“And when you’ve got Mariners supporters texting saying ‘we hope you win today,’ it’s crazy.
“That’s the damage they’re doing.”