Ex-Liverpool great excited by Okon’s Mariners

Luis Garcia has been very impressed by how Central Coast Mariners have improved under Paul Okon and has predicted the club have a couple of future Caltex Socceroos in their squad.

Garcia made 10 Hyundai A-League appearances for the Mariners as a guest player last season and regularly praised the quality of Central Coast’s younger players. 

However, despite some Garcia moments of magic, the Gosford-based club finished the campaign 12 points clear at the bottom of the table. 

But with Okon taking over as coach from Tony Walmsley before the 2016/17 Season, Central Coast have been much better this term winning two and drawing three of their opening nine matches.

In a wide-ranging interview with Goal India, the former Liverpool, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid attacking midfielder revealed he “still follows the A-League regularly” and applauded the impact Okon has had in Gosford.

Luis Garcia celebrates with Liam Rose after the Mariners equalised at 1-1 with the Wanderers.

The Spaniard was in India to watch a special screening of El Clasico organised by La Liga in Delhi.

“They [the Mariners] changed the coach and they’re doing really well right now. It is still early days and there’s a long way to go but things look better,” Garcia said. 

“Last year, they had fantastic young players but they were all 18 or 19-year-olds with no experience of professional football. Then suddenly they find themselves playing in such a difficult situation. 

“But this year I am sure they will do really well and couple of the youngsters will definitely get into the Australian national team.”

Central Coast lost 4-1 to Western Sydney Wanderers last week to fall to seventh on the ladder with nine points, two adrift of Tony Popovic’s side, who moved back into the top six.

The Mariners will look to bounce back away to Wellington Phoenix on Saturday in what will be the first Hyundai A-League match held at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium Waikato.