• Future unknown ... victorious Mariners coach Graham Arnold (Getty Images)
Central Coast Mariners benefactor Mike Charlesworth has revealed the club parted ways with long-time CEO John McKay on Thursday because it 'couldn’t afford him".
By
SBS: Dave Lewis

25 Apr 2013 - 8:23 PM  UPDATED 26 Apr 2013 - 12:07 AM

Charlesworth is making some tough decisions as he bids to restructure the A-League champion to ensure its longevity and stave off possible relocation away from its Gosford habitat.

And McKay, who had been in his role since 2004 but for a brief spell in 2001, was sacrificed as part of a cost-cutting program aimed at stemming losses of $1 million a year.

'I’d like to thank John for the endeavour he put in over the years and he did a fantastic job in keeping the club together," said the Englishman whose intervention last month saved the Mariners from drowning in red ink.

'Going forward, the reality is I couldn’t afford him. We’ve decided to make changes "¦ and we need to because this club has been living on credit for a number of years now," said Charlesworth.

Charlesworth also said he did not yet know whether coach Graham Arnold, whose latest rabbit out of the hat has guided Central Coast to the brink of qualifying for the next stage of the AFC Champions League, will stay or go.

'Our plan A is that he stays and keeps working his magic but we also have a Plan B in place which is predicated on what happens if he goes," he added.

'There’s no doubt he’s in demand and, as of now, I don’t know what he will do. He does have a year left on his contract but if he receives a good offer then we will not be about to stand in his way. We will sit down and chat but I can’t force him to stay."

Charlesworth paid homage to his Mariners team which upset the odds to overcome K-League high-flyer Suwon Bluewings 1-0 in its own backyard on Tuesday – just 48 hours after beating Western Sydney in the A-League grand final.

'I am honesty surprised at how well they did. In truth I was expecting the worst because of the fatigue factor," he admitted.

'But they seemed to get stronger as the game went on and the result is testament to the character of the team and the work Graham Arnold has put in in getting them so well organised and disciplined.

'They had no time at all to prepare for the game, and taking that into account along with all the travelling involved, it was a superb performance."

With Central Coast to face the already-qualified Kashiwa Reysol in its final Group H match at Bluetongue Stadium next Tuesday, Charlesworth added: 'We’re now in a great position to qualify [Mariners are two points clear of third placed Guizhoe Renhe]."

Charlesworth signalled out young defenders Trent Sainsbury and Zac Anderson – whom he hailed as a future Socceroos pairing at the back – for special praise.

'They were mountains for us," he said. 'Both of them have huge futures ahead and can go very far in the game. I see them playing together for Australia."

Despite reports in England claiming a firm $560,000 offer for Sainsbury had been tabled by Bolton, it transpires that all the Championship club has come up with to date is the offer of a trial. The only other club to take significant interest is FC Basel, with Sainsbury yet to decide on which of the two he may opt for.

Inspired by the fans forums which helped shape WSW into one of Australian sport’s rising forces, Charlesworth will be staging a series of Mariners fans forums over the next few months to take the temperature of the club’s grassroots followers.

'I feel we have to re-engage with our population up here on the Coast and this is about building football in the area," he said.

'It’s about what the fans want from us and what more we can to do meet their wishes and work with them and for them. The relationship with the supporters, and building that fan base and memberships, is the key to the future sustainability of this club.

'We have several initiatives in the pipeline, which will be revealed shortly."