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Feb, 22, 2008

Mariners ambitions go beyond A-League

Central Coast's mission of intent goes well beyond Sunday's A-League grand final against Newcastle.

The Mariners don't just want to be champions, they want to be the best football club in Australia - both on and off the field.

"Our vision is very strong and very clear," said club executive chairman Lyall Gorman.

"We want to be the best footy club in Australia. And we've got a very clear plan to do that.

Certainly the Mariners could lay claim to being the most successful club in the A-League's short history if they beat their bitter rivals at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday.

This season, the club won the premier's plate for topping the league, and have previously won the pre-season cup.

Sunday will be their second grand final after going down 1-0 to Sydney FC in season one.

Back in that inaugural season, the Mariners were viewed as the little brother to the big city club of Sydney.

They were often noted as being the smallest club in the A-League.

Gorman admits the "underdogs" tag handed out to the Mariners didn't always sit well with the players, coaches and officials.

But all that has changed.

After being on life support for much of its infancy, the Mariners are flourishing, and will next year compete against the cream of Asian club football in the Asian Champions League.

In season three, Gorman believes the Mariners have not just made a mark in Australian football, but on a world scale - the mid-season signing of Socceroos World Cup hero John Aloisi, for a reported $500,000, a case in point.

"This year, obviously with Johnny Aloisi coming on board, that was a statement to the global marketplace that we're here and we're prepared to back ourself, and invest in the future development of our club and the game nationally," Gorman said.

"So I think our profile has been enhanced a heck of a lot since season one.

"We'd like to think that we're well regarded now.

"We struggled year one with the media and its approach to our players about us being underdogs, our players didn't accept that well, our club didn't accept it well.

"But that profile has changed a lot. Now we're the highest sponsored club in the A-League, our corporate support is second to none, our membership base has increased 600 per cent since season one.

"The involvement of (former Sydney FC director and businessman) Peter Turnbull this year, his injection of capital has helped us a lot in terms of accelerating our plans, and we've obviously got a model which is serving us well.

"We're delighted where we are today."

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