A-League Championship-winning coach Graham Arnold wants Football Federation Australia to allow Central Coast Mariners special dispensation for six visa players in 2013-2014 – so it can have a realistic chance of being “competitive next season”.
Arnold, who turned down the manager's job at Sheffield United to remain with the under-financed team he has moulded into a major A-League force, has the backing of owner Mike Charlesworth to lobby for the extra overseas slot as the club reels from its annual player exodus and seeks to ensure it is able to maintain its lofty standards.
The latest player lurking in the Gosford exit lounge is midfielder Oliver Bozanic, who having been linked with the K-League, could now be just days away from sealing a move to the Swiss Super League at an unnamed club for around $300,000.
The departures of the likes of Bernie Ibini, Mat Ryan, Pedj Bojic, Mustafa Amini, Rostyn Griffiths and Alex Wilkinson has raised $4.4 million in the past 15 months at a club which only stayed alive thanks to a cash infusion from Englishman Charlesworth in March – before going on to beat Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League decider.
Arnold has also been hit with the retirement of Dutch defender Patrick Zwaanswijk and the exit of Golden Boot Daniel McBreen on loan to Ibini’s new club, Shanghai SIPG, until the end of October – four games into the new A-League season.
Western Sydney was allowed six visa slots by FFA in its start-up season and Arnold is keen to harness that precedent.
“It’s going to be a rebuilding year in 2013-2014 and maybe I will ask the FFA for some assistance and we might be allowed to have six foreign players,” he said.
“It’s a concession which West Sydney had so they could be competitive – and I have lost seven players from the grand final starting line-up and maybe they will let us have six foreigners so we are competitive next season.
“There is not much out there locally unless I go for kids, so hopefully I can go for some foreigners. We want to stay strong and keep delivering as people expect us to do, but as things stand that’s going to be a challenge, which is why we may need some assistance.”
The Mariners currently has just two foreigners on its books – New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey and Englishman Nick Montgomery.
Though keen to swell that number, Arnold will work within the existing $2.6 million salary cap.
“If we want to go back-to-back in terms of winning the championship then it’s something we’ll have to look at,” he added. “The other clubs have always lent heavily on foreign players and it’s something that we may now have to look at very seriously.”
Arnold’s preferred destination on a possible talent hunt is Africa – the home of a huge largely untapped football resource in terms of it’s a A-League exposure, other than the obvious examples of Melbourne Victory’s flying left-back Adama Traore who hails from the Ivory Coast and Melbourne Heart’s Iberian utility Patrick Gerhardt.
“I am turning towards Africa where the market is cheap and there is plentiful talent,” added Arnold. “I think we will find some decent players there. It’s something worth exploring.”
Free-scoring former Belgium international Stein Huysegems is poised to quit Welllington Phoenix at the end of the season after negotiations over a new contract reached a seemingly unbridgeable impasse.