Stajcic: The kids are alright so future is bright for Mariners
It won’t take away the pain of another last-place finish but Alen Stajcic says the emergence of youngsters – like match-winning hero Dylan Ruiz-Diaz – means there’s an exciting future for Central Coast Mariners.
The Gosford club ended a disappointing 2019/20 campaign on a high with a 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory thanks to Ruiz-Diaz’s late double.
It was the Mariners’ first win in 14 games, coming 204 days after their last triumph, ironically also a 3-2 success over Victory.
With the season now over, Stajcic will begin a thorough post mortem as they look to improve in 2020/21.
While they have a few areas to fix to move up the table, the Mariners boss believes the development of players like Ruiz-Diaz, Josh Nisbet, Alou Kuol, Sam Silvera and Kye Rowles means the club are in a good place to rebuild.
“The fact we can beat a massive juggernaut like Melbourne Victory two times in a season is a feather in our cap,” Stajcic told Fox Sports.
“The fact that so many young kids have burst onto the scene in our club and all been signed for next year, it just leaves a really good platform for this club to rebuild in a proper way.
“It’s the way the club was built originally, on kids that needed an opportunity to get out of the capital cities. The Maty Ryan’s and [Tom] Rogic’s and the ones that have played for the Socceroos and are now overseas, that’s what the club was built on and we need to get back to that point.
“We’ve seen the evidence of that this year. We’ve got a really good squad and something to build on and all we need is those little ingredients of senior players to guide these kids into the future that are going to be prosperous ones for us.”
After making his first start in the 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers last week, Ruiz-Diaz came off the bench for the final half an hour at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
And with his side trailing 2-1 late on, the 19-year-old showed his quality, scoring in the 85th and 89th minute – his first Hyundai A-League goals – to snatch a thrilling win.
“It’s a good feeling,” the Young Socceroo representative said.
“It’s great to get out there and turn it around for the boys. We owe it to the fans for a tough season.
“It’s been quite hard to watch throughout the season but hopefully it’s something to look forward to next season.”
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For Victory, the defeat was their fifth in a row, setting a new club record for consecutive defeats in the Hyundai A-League.
Three of those losses have come since the competition’s resumption, where the club have blooded a few youngsters after the departures of Ola Toivonen and Tim Hoogland, and the injury to Robbie Kruse.
“It’s been difficult to get back into the rhythm of things, we’ve felt that a lot,” said Marco Rojas, who scored both of Victory’s goals.
“We’ve got a young team, it’s good for them to get some minutes and it’s good for myself to adapt my game and to try and bring a bigger presence on the pitch.
“We have two more games to continue to do that and then get ourselves restarted for when we come back again.”