Hutchinson – It’s just another game

Even with his team preparing for the biggest game of the season, Mariners skipper John Hutchinson’s level head has room for other matters.

You can-t escape the buzz surrounding the Hyundai A-League this weekend. The top-of-the-table clash between Central Coast and Western Sydney as caught the attention of fans and media, with tickets to Saturday night-s game at Bluetongue Stadium the hottest ticket in town.

With a large section of the crowd to be taken up by the Red and Black Bloc, heading up the F3 to watch their side take on the league leaders, the atmosphere in Gosford is already alight.

The Mariners players are soaking it up. They might be top of the league, again, but it-s not often the Central Coast receives quite this much attention.

Bluetongue might not offer the same fan-made wall of sound as Parramatta Stadium but that doesn-t make it any less formidable. Central Coast-s record of nine wins, one draw and no losses make it the toughest place to visit in the league.

That, and a one-point buffer, give the home side the advantage. Not to mention the previous experience of end-of-season deciders.

Mariners skipper John Hutchinson says that-s the secret - keep it simple and enjoy it.

“That-s the way we do it. We don-t want to put too much pressure on anyone. For us, it-s another home game and our home form-s been really good this season, which does breed a bit of confidence.

“People say we might be a bit fatigued from Wednesday... maybe a little bit but once we walk out and there are 18-19,000 screaming fans, that-ll be washed away. We were disappointed not to get full points from the Suwon game but we have to move on pretty quick and just looking forward to a big game.

“If you ask anyone we-re just looking forward to the game. This is what we put the hard yards in for in pre-season for a big game at home. Western Sydney have been great all season and now, seven wins in a row, they deserve favouritism. They-ve been flying and hopefully on our day we can beat them - but it-ll be tough one for us.”

Tough? Didn-t they dispatch one of their biggest rivals with a 6-2 thumping just last week? It-s probably the Wanderers who should be most apprehensive about this fixture.

But Hutchinson is quick to praise the consistency of Tony Popovic-s side, with seven wins on the run pushing the newcomers right on the Mariners tail.

“We-ve watched Western Sydney win the last seven in a row and we need to be on our game otherwise they-re going to run over the top of us,” Hutchinson says.

“They-re well-coached; Popovic has done a great job, the players have gelled really well, they-ve got great players all over the park; if we-re not on our game we-ll get beat. We-re looking forward to a big game, one the fans and people watching will enjoy - we-re just going to stick our game plan and hopefully it works.”

And while his team prepares for the biggest game of the season, Hutchinson-s level head has room for other matters.

This week, he has been hosting a young footballer from his home town of Morwell, in Victoria. Fourteen-year-old Baley Row has had a chance any young footballer would kill for - a week spent with the first-team of an Hyundai A-League club, training with the team, and even getting a ticket inside the dressing room and leading them out for one of the games of the season.

Hutchinson met Row through a friend-s football academy and took the chance to give something back to the game in his home town.

“A year ago I went down and watched some training with my mate Mark Cassar and we decided there-s enough talent down there to create a new pathway and show them there-s life outside Morwell in professional football.

“I-m from down there and it was easy then because we had the Morwell Falcons and Eastern Pride but now they don-t have that now.

“It-s been good, he watched us do the gym sessions, he-s helped out collecting the balls - he actually on his first day we had an active recovery session and he got to join in a five v two with the first-team boys and he hasn-t stopped speaking about it.

"Arnie-s had a chat to him, all the players have spoken to him, he-s hung around first team training, he-s come at the right time to watch the Wanderers game, to be in the change room and walk out with the boys.”

This could just be the start, with Hutchinson considering bringing a whole team up next time, to give them a taste of elite football.

“Our idea is to bring a whole team up from Morwell and play them against the academy team up here and give them a week of watching the first team train and see how they go from there. We-re trying to help players down in Morwell. It-s He-s been a credit to himself and the region.”

Considering the week his team is going through - midweek AFC Champions League games and season-defining fixtures - it says a lot about the Mariners skipper that he can still take the time to give something back.

But perhaps Bayley can sum up the experience best, with sentiments most Mariners fans probably agree with at the moment.

“It was awesome. Getting to train with the firsts and the u16 academy and they let me have a go in the light recovery session. It-s been an awesome week.”