What Monty told Mark Jackson after leaving Central Coast Mariners 5 months ago

Nick Montgomery had one message for Mark Jackson before his Central Coast Mariners appointment: “You’re taking over the best ever Mariners team”.

Jackson replaced title-winning head coach Montgomery heading into 2023-24 and the former Leeds United academy boss has Central Coast second in the Isuzu UTE A-League – just three points off top spot, while the Mariners are also through to the AFC Cup Inter Zonal Final.

This is despite an off-season of upheaval that saw Montgomery depart for Scottish Premiership side Hibernian after winning the A-Leagues Championship. Stars Jason Cummings, Sammy Silvera, Nectar Triantis, Beni Nkololo and James McGarry also headlined the player exits while Marco Tulio left in January.

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As the Mariners eye back-to-back Championships, former boss Montgomery spoke about his time in Gosford, which was centred on a philosophy of youth development and providing a platform to move overseas – a belief that has turned the A-Leagues underdogs into a powerhouse again.

“It took me a couple of years to build that Central Coast side and when I moved on I left a team of champion players and staff for Mark to inherit,” Montgomery told FTBL while discussing his new challenge at Hibs – who are seventh in the standings.

“I was able to scout and recruit visa players like Angel Torres and Mikael Doka, as well as sign top young talent like Nathan Paull, Bailey Brandtman and Miguel Di Pizio and also bring back Alou Kuol and Jing Reec, who was a player I had sold two years previously.

“I think I left behind the best team the Mariners have ever had in terms of value – a lot of whom were champions the year before, players like Josh Nisbet, Max Balard, Jacob Farrell and Dan Hall who all graduated through the academy.

“Perhaps people don’t always appreciate that. I remember telling Mark before he took charge ‘you’re taking over the best ever Mariners team on paper and in terms of value they might generate’.

“Jacko is a great guy – we speak a lot and I’m really happy for him, the players and staff that they’re continuing to be successful because the squad was built to be sustainable.

“The challenge I took on here in Scotland was very different – the team were down at the bottom of the league and I went from with the youngest team in the A-League to the oldest average age team in the SPL.

“I knew it was a test but it’s a massive club. But I think the recruitment has been good. There have been five debuts from the academy and a lot of progress, on and off the field.

“The owners have been really supportive – big change is good but it also takes time.”