Sydney FC coach Ian Crook has called for nine extra rounds in the A-League to combat the boredom of a seemingly never-ending off-season.
The A-League went into recess after the grand final on 22 April and won't be back until the first round of the eighth season until 5 October.
The A-League's five-and-a half-month off-season makes it amongst the longest in the world.
Sydney FC's off-season will be longer because it lost in the first week of the finals.
Crook, who was named coach of the harbour club in mid-May, said a 36-round A-League would be the answer to the clubs' predicament.
”We used to have a pre-season cup in the first years of the A-League but what we need is another nine rounds of league games,” Crook said.
”At the moment we play every team three times but some teams we play at home twice and others away twice.
”Playing each other four times gives you another nine games ... 36 instead of only 27.
”We could do one of two things, either start early and encroach on the rugby league and Australian football finals or finish later which would clash with the start of the other codes' season.
”It's not ideal but it's the lesser of the two evils.
”It doesn't matter what you do in pre-season, whether you play 10 or 15 friendly games, nothing beats competition games because they have a different feel about them.
”In any league in the world in the first two or three games players are just getting their game legs back.
”I understand where they (Football Federation Australia) are coming from but from the coaches' and players' point of view we just want more games.”
Crook was confronted with a rare challenge when he took over the reigns of the club: how to keep his players motivated and fit during such a long period without competitive football.
Together with outgoing coach Vitezslav Lavicka he devised a training and holiday program designed to make sure that the players be in the best possible condition for the league opener in Wellington against Phoenix.
”Our pre-season is very, very long and we tried to just come up with something to keep the players keen and eager for the game,” he explained.
”With no games on, one thing you have to be very careful of is boredom.
”Players would become flat by the time the season comes along.
”Whatever we say, no matter how much you love the game, coming in to train every single day with no purpose really other than to keep yourself fit because there are no games becomes very difficult.
”After we lost in the finals the players had a short break then came back to train for five weeks and were away again for five more weeks before we start training again on Monday.
”It was all about keeping their fitness up and giving them some time away.”
Crook's next challenge will be to find the best position for right-sided marquee player Brett Emerton, who was used essentially in midfield by Lavicka with varying degrees of success.
”Getting the best out of Brett is obviously highly important to us,” Crook said.
”He is the kind of individual who would be comfortable to play wherever he is needed and I will have a chat with him and the boys about this.
”We will sit down with all the squad once we're complete and start looking at players in different positions.
”So come the first game of the season we'll have more than a good idea of what the best position is for everybody, not just Emmo's.
”He spent 90 per cent of his career as a right back or a right winger but he can also play centrally as well so we'll look through some things like different partnerships in pre-season and then make some decisions.”
Crook did not discount the option of using Emerton and 'fantasista' Nicky Carle in the hole just behind a lone striker.
”Yes, you can do that with a 4-3-3 and play with one striker and two men just behind him,” he said.
”We have a lot of different options now which is good.”
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan, defender Pedj Bojic and midfielder Oliver Bozanic look to have played their last games for Central Coast Mariners as the A-League champion faces a raft of departures.