97 PAUL OKON

Australian Four Four Two - - 99 THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR THIS SEASON -

In Okon’s first sea­son in Gos­ford, the Mariners im­proved markedly, dou­bling their win tally and fin­ish­ing eighth. But they started from a low base af­ter an aw­ful 2015/16 sea­son un­der Tony Walm­s­ley where they suf­fered the most de­feats and shipped the most goals in competition his­tory. For all of Cen­tral Coast’s progress, they still fin­ished 13 points adrift of the fi­nals spots and only their F3 Derby win over New­cas­tle Jets in the penul­ti­mate round meant they avoided an­other wooden spoon. Okon has re­cruited well ahead of the 2017/18 sea­son, hav­ing in­her­ited Walm­s­ley’s squad last term, af­ter the lat­ter’s sack­ing in Au­gust. In­her­it­ing the squad can no longer be used as an ex­cuse. Also, Walm­s­ley’s dis­missal was prompted by an FFA Cup de­feat to an NPL club, some­thing which Okon has now re­peated 12 months later. “Last sea­son I came in quite late but any foot­ball job at this level there’s al­ways pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tions, whether they’re from out­side or the ones you set your­selves,” Okon says. “We wel­come that. We knew that we needed to be bet­ter, we ex­pected to be bet­ter and we are a bet­ter side.” Amid all of that, Okon isn’t set­ting lofty goals for a squad which re­mains youth­ful de­spite the ad­di­tion of play­ers like Alan Baro, Wout Brama and Tom Hiariej. “Our ap­proach is the same,” Okon ex­plains. “We’re not talk­ing fi­nals, we’re not look­ing ahead to fi­nals, we just want to win games and we know that if you win enough, at some stage in the sea­son you can look at the lad­der and go ‘yeah, we’re a chance of play­ing in the fi­nals or no, we’re not a chance’. “That’s what we did last sea­son – I think it was Round 25 when math­e­mat­i­cally that couldn’t hap­pen. We want to im­prove – that means win­ning more than six games and we’ll take it from there.”

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