New Central Coast Mariners boss Nick Montgomery says the club will keep developing and producing its own players as seeks to repeat last season's impressive performance.
The Mariners have a long history of giving youngsters opportunities over the years, from Oliver Bozanic to Maty Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Bernie Ibini, Tom Rogic and many more.
Last season the NSW outfit stunned the A-League by finishing third with the likes of Alou Koul, Gianni Stensness and others coming to the fore.
Koul, Stensness and Jing Reece have since been sold on to European clubs, and Montgomery insists the Mariners youth-focused model will continue.
"The club’s built on developing young players," he told FTBL.
"That’s what the owner wants. That’s the model that the owner wants for the club and it’s a successful model that I think the Mariners has done better than any club in the A-League.
"In the last two years it’s been a big amount of players coming through. We sold three players last year that had come through the academy in Gianni Stensness, Alou Koul and Jing Reece who have all gone to top European clubs in Germany, Denmark and Norway.
"So it’s part of the club’s DNA and that’s what we’re going to do. We don’t have the finances of the other clubs so we have to produce own our players. When you do it, and do it well, people want to buy your good young players overseas.
"With that model it helps us attract the best young players from around the country and that’s what we’re trying to build here."
Central Coast will have another young squad for the new A-League campaign featuring talent such as 20-year-old Max Balard, 20-year-old Noah Smith and 21-year-old Matt Hatch.
Montgomery believes a number of his young guns can shine this season, and nominates 19-year-old midfielder Harry Steele and 18-year-old Jacob Farrell as two to watch.
"There’s probably seven or eight young players that can make an impact this year," he said.
"Look, they need games of football. Everyone’s been in this lockdown, the NPL season finished last year prematurely, so it’s been a really strange time.
"Young players need games of football so hopefully everyone can get back playing soon and we can continue to develop these players and push them into their first-team when they’re ready."
Montgomery admits it has been a difficult and unusual pre-season dealing with Covid-19.
"It’s been a real challenge with Covid, with all the protocols and lockdowns," the Englishman said.
"But it is what it is. It’s been different in Australia with all the rules and regulations. Obviously, we’re part of NSW and Melbourne has been the worst hit, and other states have been playing games but it is what it is.
"We can’t control that. But it’s been good, we’ve brought in some new players and gelled the team together. Finally we’re out of lockdown and on the home straight with the season starting."
The new A-League campaign kicks off on November 21 for the Mariners, against Newcastle Jets, and Montgomery is predicting a hard but exciting season after taking over from Alen Stajcic.
"For me the top six is what you start the season targeting, finals football has to be the aim for every A-League club," he said.
"Last season was a good season, but it was also a Covid-hit season where a lot of teams didn’t spend a lot of money. A lot of the top players went overseas like Le Fondre.
"I’m under no illusions, you only have to look at the signings from everybody, some of the visa players coming across the A-League. Everybody’s having a good go and there’s a transition now with the league being taken on by the owners.
"So it’s a real transition and I think football can really grow in this country. I think you can see by the recruitment that this season is going to be a lot stronger and we’ll be much stronger.
"We’ve bought some good visa boys in, we’ve got some good young players coming through the system but we’re under no illusions it’s going to be a tough season and we’ll just concentrate on ourselves."