Hutchinson recalls his darkest days

Bad memories ... Mariners captain John Hutchinson (Getty)

North Sydney Oval conjures up some horrible memories for Central Coast skipper John Hutchinson.

Of a time when his bank account was empty and he was forced to turn to his parents and girlfriend for handouts and friends for food.

It got so bad he even told his dad he was going to quit the sport. Forever.

"That was probably the worst time in my football career," Hutchinson said.

That was in 2004, the year Hutchinson was left clubless after the collapse of National Soccer League outfit Northern Spirit.

He'd joined the club three years prior - the days when fans packed North Sydney Oval to watch the likes of Australia stars Graham Arnold, Robbie Slater and Craig Foster.

"It was a big club, I played next to some big players back then," Hutchinson recalled.

But things went "pear-shaped" when the side struggled on-field, stands emptied and club money dried up. It only got worse after Scotland's Glasgow Rangers bought them out of debt.

Hutchinson was left without nine months' pay. That was on top of the six months he was in arrears from his earlier stint at Victorian outfit Morwell Pegasus.

"We lived in a house of five guys when we were at Northern Spirit ... we had some really hard times," he said.

"Sometimes we had to get people to buy us dinner and bring it around so we could cook.

"I remember ringing mum and dad to pay my phone bill all the time ... I had to sell the car.

"I've seen people lose houses, marriages break up over it. I've seen people brought to tears over payment from a club when they keep promising it to you and it never comes."

Luckily, Hutchinson secured a contract with the Mariners for the A-League's inaugural season in 2005-2006.

He has since won premierships and a championship with the club.

But without his mum, dad and wife, he said he didn't think 'I'd be playing football."

While it hasn't been all smooth sailing at the Mariners - the club's financial woes delaying payments to players last season - Hutchinson said his love for the game has kept him going.

And he is keen to create some new memories at North Sydney Oval on Thursday, when the Mariners host Wellington Phoenix.

"I hope there's a big crowd," he said.

"We love playing at Bluetongue - that's our home ground and we'll never leave the Central Coast. But if we can take a game to North Sydney or somewhere else and ... people come and watch us play, then it's going to be fantastic for everyone."