Mariners offer a fresh start for Stajcic

Alen Stajcic has landed his first job as an A-League coach with Central Coast.
Alen Stajcic has landed his first job as an A-League coach with Central Coast.

Halting Central Coast's A-League decline couldn't be more different than preparing the Matildas for a World Cup in France.

But it's a challenge Alen Stajcic is looking forward to.

Controversially axed as Matildas boss in January, Stajcic made his return to football on Tuesday when he was unveiled as the Mariners' caretaker coach.

It means instead of finalising plans for Australia's World Cup tilt, Stajcic will be attempting to avoid being at the helm of the team with the worst points tally in a 27-game A-League campaign.

The Mariners head into Saturday's F3 derby at Newcastle with just seven points to their name from 21 matches.

The worst tally for a 27-campaign is 13, set by the Mariners in 2015-16.

Despite a shocking season which led to Mike Mulvey's dismissal following an 8-2 hiding by Wellington in Gosford last Saturday, Stajcic believes the Mariners' long-term future doesn't have to be as dire as many feel.

"Trying to get this team to believe in itself," Stajcic said when asked what his immediate task is.

"Believe in its own ability. There's so much potential within this group and so much ability.

"I see a great football team here with a lot of potential, that's the thing we have to focus on rather than gender or age."

A successful six-match stint at the Mariners helm will go a long way to erasing the past two months for Stajcic, where he has been embroiled in a public and acrimonious spat with the FFA over his Matildas' sacking.

FFA executives said part of the reason for Stajcic's shock dismissal was the growth of a "toxic culture" within Australia's women's team - a claim the 45-year-old has disputed.

In an ironic twist he says part of his role at the Mariners will be rebuilding harmony at a club that has gone from premierships in 2008 and 2012 to an almost certain third wooden spoon in four years.

"It's a really proud moment for me, a club with so much tradition and history and success in the A-League," he said.

"To come over and try to help them in this period for the next seven or eight weeks is going to be a real opportunity and a real challenge."

Australian Associated Press