Central Coast Mariners will be as strong and competitive as it has ever been despite the loss of key players, general manager football Lawrie McKinna warned.
The A-League's smallest club has lost Matt Simon, Rostyn Griffiths, Mustafa Amini and captain Alex Wilkinson to foreign clubs in the last year and goalkeeper Mat Ryan will start a one-week trial with Tottenham Hotspur next week.
The Mariners can reassure their fans that the new players signed to replace the departed stars will keep the club in the running for the championship, McKinna said.
“We have always replaced good players with equally good players,” McKinna said.
”You will find that the Mariners will again be very strong on the field this coming season.
”We will be as competitive as ever and I know for a fact that Graham Arnold is very confident in the squad he's got.
”He knows that some key players who have left will be missed but he also knows that others will step up the mark.
”As long as your recruitment is wise you will always maintain the quality on the field.
”Good players come and go and we have always adequately replaced the players who left.
”All it takes is to do your homework properly and make sure you identify young talent early.
”When Jess Van Strattan got injured Mat Ryan stepped in and all of a sudden he's the best goalkeeper in Australia because he took the opportunity.
”This year we signed three members of our youth squad because we are happy with them.
”I have no doubt that we will be in good shape this coming season.”
McKinna, who took the Mariners to two grand finals when he was club coach from 2005 to 2010, refuted suggestions that the financially-strapped club was developing a selling culture to make ends meet.
”It has never been our policy to sell to survive,” he protested.
”We have sold some players over the years not necessarily because we needed the money but because we were offered a good deal and we as a club would never stand in a player's way to further himself.
”We are not the sort of club that goes around Asia trying to flog players.
”We would rather retain players like Wilko on a long-term deal than sell him.
”But if a club comes along and offers the right money to us and to him we would sell the player.
”It's purely business. Any club in Europe would do the same thing.
”When Simon and Griffiths left the club they had three months left on their contract and they were offered good money to play in Korea Republic and China.
”We never went shopping these players about.
”Four weeks before Wilko left for Korea we had an offer from a Chinese club but we turned it down because it was not fair on the Mariners.
”Mile Jedinak, Simon, Griffiths, Amini and now Wilkinson are the only players we have sold to overseas clubs.
”Because of what's happened in Asia with the 'three plus one' foreigners rule and with the big money in China, Australian players are becoming more attractive.
”You will see more Aussie players going to Asia rather than Europe.”
McKinna said he was more than happy with the playing roster for season eight, the club's major signing being Australia wingback Mile Sterjovski.
”Mile is a great signing for us,” he said.
”His experience will be fantastic because we have seven players in our squad under the age of 21.
”Young Zac Anderson from the Gold Coast can be a readymade replacement for Wilko.
”We've also got striker Mitchell Duke from our youth side and defender James Oates who came through Manly.
”They are both highly rated and there's also young midfielder Anthony Caceres, who was outstanding in the youth team last season.”
Marquee man Alessandro Del Piero will spearhead the A-League All Stars after being voted into the side to face EPL champion Manchester United next month.