A-League – The Coast’s Marquee: The case for Luis Garcia


Luis Garcia’s recruitment is one of the more bold signings in the history of the A-League and the fact he has joined the last-placed Central Coast Mariners, and not a big side, makes the scenario all the more intriguing.

Whilst many people have decried the fashion in which the announcement was made, during a match and including an in-game television interview with coach Tony Walmsley, I think the move is mostly positive.

Central Coast Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has constantly tried to shake things up at the club since taking control of the licence, from endeavouring to obtain the stadium management rights to this latest move. Charlesworth is trying to push the envelope with a club that most people view as having a natural ceiling (in terms of fandom and corporate support.) Whether this assertion is right or not isn’t for this column but Charlesworth is well aware of the value ‘smaller’ A-League franchises (even ones with long term licences) must show to be seen as viable, ongoing, residents of the A-League. Charlesworth recently said on the Yellow Army podcast “We know that (Football Federation Australia CEO) David Gallop’s history was never particularly favourable to the Central Coast in terms of his rugby league days and I don’t think that’s changed.”

The addition of Garcia shows a boldness even the monied Melbourne City franchise are yet to display. Remember the debacle of the David Villa ‘signing’ for the second Victorian club? At least the Mariners have worked with their sponsors, and with the help (presumably) of the transfer fee from the sale of Anthony Caceres, and been able to bring the ex-Barcelona and Liverpool attacker to the club for a few months as opposed to a few weeks.

The last time the Mariners made what was supposedly a stupid decision surrounding the team (or at least what the team wears) was the call to go with a palm tree-inspired jersey for this season. The announcement was made in August of 2015 and met with criticism about the lack of tradition plus jibes as to what the images actually represented. However it had local breakfast commercial radio talking about the A-League, in August – which almost never happens. It made a club’s normally boring jersey announcement actually interesting for once. Fast forward to earlier this month and Charlesworth revealed the jersey is the highest-selling strip in the club’s history. How silly do palm trees look now?


From a playing perspective the Garcia signing has some concerns but I don’t see it as a key grading for the A-League. If he does well then so be it. As long as he isn’t atrocious then it’s at least a neutral result performance-wise for a team running last with only two wins in 15 games.

Should Garcia slot in on the left wing that would mean Michael Neill, 21, who recently scored his maiden A-League goal could make way. This is disappointing for the Sydney native who has been racked with injuries in his young career which included only playing eight games in season 2014/15 due to a season-ending foot injury.

The Mariners counter-attacking style means Garcia will have to work hard on the flank but will probably spend a fair bit of time trying to get the ball back. His support of Josh Rose at the back may be as important as his attacking prowess. It could work out well if Garcia plays 50-60 minutes before been replaced by Neill who could then dominate the scorched earth Garcia has created prior but it’s high risk. There is also a chance he sits in behind the forwards but with just 12 games remaining it will take some time for the former Spanish international to combine with his new teammates. Many of the them, such as striker Josh Bingham and Trent Buhagiar, have only just made their A-League debuts recently so that is problematic. No one wants a pre-season in-season but that is what Walmsley is stuck with to a degree.

Speaking to a former Indian Super League player over the weekend I was told Garcia was solid for his team (he was skipper for Atletico de Kolkata in the 2014 competition.) Interestingly the Catalonian won the competition’s Most Exciting Player award (a vague-sounding title that doesn’t necessarily denote the most influential player). The ISL, due to it’s brevity of only 14 regular season games and three more for sides who make the grand final, is hard to gauge. It’s also worth noting Garcia didn’t always start, he came off the bench in Kolkata’s 1-0 grand final win over Kerala Blasters, and that was about 13 months ago so the chances he plays 90 minutes in any game for the Mariners is doubtful – at least in the first month. Garcia was also able to play with former Liverpool teammates Josemi in India, a luxury he will not have at the Mariners with the players and league completely foreign to him. Prior to that stint in West Bengal he notched 21 goals in a 77-game spell playing in Mexico. What the Mariners would have given to recruit him before or just after that spell?

Garcia’s lack of game time could have an impact on midfielder Nick Montgomery, who often spends time sprinting over to cover teammates in the corners or on the edge of the area. If the former Sheffield United man spends more time tracking back to cover a not yet fit Garcia if he plays on the flanks Montgomery could have to be replaced earlier in games. This means the Mariners substitutes may have to be mainly midfield-based when Walmsley may prefer to throw on a defender, if they happen to be leading, or another attacker, should they be chasing the game.


The Mariners have home matches remaining which include the Western Sydney Wanderers (last season the corresponding game drew a crowd of 14,691), Sydney FC (12,102), and Newcastle (10,443) amongst the sides to travel to Central Coast Stadium. These three teams drew the highest crowds to Gosford in season 2014/15. The chance that these fixtures will get a ‘Garcia bump’ are positive given the proximity of these side’s to Gosford and the large contingent on EPL fans in or near the greater Sydney metropolitan area. Commercially this is the best time of the season for the club to sign a player of Garcia’s ilk.

Given the Mariners are last, and can’t get relegated, the short term sacrifice for Neill (or whoever misses out) on game day balanced with the training experience the UEFA Champions League winner will offer his new teammates and the commercial value to the franchise it’s a pretty good recruitment. If there was promotion/relegation that would be a different matter as Garcia would surely not stick around for a second division and it would be 12 games wasted developing a player in that position which could potentially help the side bounce straight back up. But if the 37 year-old can do well and, who knows, even sign a deal next season it may also help the Mariners off-season recruitment.


Garcia is unlikely to be Dwight Yorke-level when the Manchester United star helped lead Sydney FC to the inaugural title, but he won’t be Mario Jardel-level at the Jets when the Porto legend appeared 11 times before he was cut loose halfway-through the Jets championship-winning season.

Here’s to ‘Garcia 10’ palm tree jerseys dotted around Terrigal Beach and beyond.

This piece first appeared at From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.


  1. Looking forward to the famous Luis Garcia Kop chant echoing around Sauce Bottle Stadium:

    “Luis Garcia drinks San-Gria”

    On reflection, it probably sounds better in Scouse that Central Coastian…

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    He retired and then came out of retirement to play in the almost reality show like Indian Premier League where he was let go because of injury concerns and, as you said, didn’t start many games. If you can’t be kept on in a completely irrelevant league like the one in India then why is he being signed by an A-League club. I hope it works out but it seems to be a desperate attempt by a failing club to try and desperately get some more bums on seats at Estadio De Saucebottle through Liverpool Premier League nostalgia and nothing else.

    The League should be looking to be above getting in has beens in their late 30s to try and pump up awareness and attendances unless they’re gold class.

  3. Steve, If the fake scouse accent does not make an appearance at Sauce Bottle Arena I’ll be most disappointed.
    Dennis, good point about his ISL tenure but it is what it is. As i say if CCM had picked him up around the time of his stint in Mexico it would have been a very good pick-up. You make a good point about the quality of marquee. That CCM have the best marquee in terms of name recognition, even for less than half a season, is an indictment on the other nine franchises.

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