It’s going to be a big weekend for former A-League star Nick Montgomery as he stares down the possibility of winning his first piece of silverware as a coach for the talented Central Coast Mariners Academy squad set to face Northern Tigers in the National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s Grand Final on Saturday at Valentine Sports Park.
The 38-year-old former defensive midfielder who once starred for Sheffield United playing well over 340 matches before coming to Australia where he made over 100 appearances for the Central Coast Mariners has been delighted with what his young chargers have achieved during this year’s rebooted NPL 2 NSW Men’s season.
“I am very happy and proud of the young group of 20s and 1st grade players that have excelled for us this year.
“We have already made history at the club winning both league titles and Club Championship for the first time.
“It’s certainly felt extra special during these uncertain times but a true testament to the players and staff for remaining focused during this period.
“On a personal note I have thoroughly enjoyed my first head coach role looking after the 20s and 1st grade with my assistant Sergio Raimundo who is a world class coach with a background of developing world class players.
“Finishing my UEFA pro-license was a great learning experience for me over the last few years and putting that into practice creating a winning environment and culture is what myself and my staff have worked hard to do.
“I demand a lot from the players, and they deserve all the recognition for their hard work and dedication they have given all season.”
Montgomery’s Premiership winning squad were made to work for their Grand Final ticket this Saturday when they defeated an always tough and experienced Bonnyrigg White Eagles outfit last weekend.
“Bonnyrigg are a big physical side and a team who only conceded 8 goals all season before we played them in the penultimate game then the semis last weekend – so to score six over the two games against them was a fitting end to the season going into the final this weekend.”
With the big match against a tricky Northern Tigers outfit, the ex-combative midfielder understands that his troops need to be at their very best if they want to clinch a memorable double for the club.
“We are looking forward to the Grand Final and as I told the boys last week, we are already super proud of them making history so there is no pressure on us going into these games.
“It will be a great experience for everyone involved and a proud day for the club.
“The hardest job will be picking the two starting teams, but they have all played a massive part in our success this season and all deserve to play.
“The Northern Tigers are a good team so it will be a good game of football and the best team on the day should win. Likewise, Hakoah Sydney City East in the 20s have had a strong end to the season and will be a tough opponent come Saturday.”
The success of the “Baby” Mariners is sure to please its current senior A-League coach Alen Stajcic who could open the door to a few of these young guns coming through the club’s youth system.
The likes of Dan Hall, Damian Tsekenis, Harrison Steele, Harry McCarthy, James Bayliss, Matthew Cahill, Max Balard, Michale Katsoulis and Jordan Smylie could join Alou Kuol, Dylan Ruiz-Diaz, Louis Khoury and Lewis Miller who have already tasted senior A-League experience in 2021.
“The Central Coast Mariners has a proud history of developing young players and Staj has given the likes of Kuol, Khoury, Diaz and Miller some A-League game time this season and with the competition in a financial crisis at the moment, I’m sure he will be looking to expose some of these top young players we have at the club.
“But first and foremost they must earn the right to play in the senior A-League team and the success they have all had this season should hold them in good stead.”
On a sombre but pleasing note, the club was relieved that their first-grade keeper Luca Meggetto is on the slow road to recovery after fracturing his skull two weeks ago in a freak training accident.
Montgomery stated that the club and boys have rallied around the promising shotstopper in raising his spirits once more.
“It’s been a really tough time for Luca who suffered a freak training ground accident, but we are so thankful to know that he has come out of hospital and is slowly on the mend.
“It’s been a tough moment for the boys, but we are a tight knit group and will continue to help Luca get to where he needs to once more.
“He’s had well wishes from Petr Cech, Dean Henderson and Matty Ryan to name a few, but I know he is very excited that he will be able to watch the boys play in the Grand Final after checking out of hospital only yesterday.”