Versus: Paul Okon v Tony Walmsley

Paul Okon celebrated his 35th A-League match in charge of the Central Coast Mariners with a comprehensive 4-1 victory away to the Wellington Phoenix. Thirty-five isn’t a milestone match but what is significant about it is that Okon’s predecessor Tony Walmsley managed 35 matches before being sacked in August last year. While the Mariners certainly look better under Okon how is he faring compared to Walmsley?

Results are the most important. Poor results is the reason why Walmsley is no longer the head coach to begin with. Promising results is the reason Okon still has a job, and was even rumoured to be courted by Western Sydney when Tony Popovic left at the beginning of the season.

The Mariners sunk to unprecedented lows under Tony Walmsley. In the 2015-16 season, they only won three games (the second least in A-League history), loss 20 out of 27 matches (the most in A-League history), scored 13 points (12 points behind ninth place), and conceded 70 goals (another league record). They conceded four or more goals on eight occasions. Out of Walmsley’s 35 matches he won five, drew five, and loss 25, for 20 points. His side scored 42, conceded 87 for a difference of -45. He was sacked with a winning percentage of 14.29 which is the 10th lowest in the competition’s history.



While the Mariners are no longer easy beats under Okon, they aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. In 35 matches the Mariners have won eight, drawn eight, and suffered 19 defeats, six fewer than Walmsley. The Mariners have won 32 competition points under Okon. They have scored 43 goals, but have conceded 65 for a difference of -22. Which is a vast improvement. Okon’s winning percentage isn’t pretty sitting at 22.86 per cent and is the 19th lowest in A-League history.


But it’s a lot better than Walmsley’s who (hopefully) isn’t going to be given a second chance at management (sorry Tony).

The Mariners only kept two clean sheets in 35 matches under Walmsley and they both came when he was interim coach at the end of the 2014-15 season. They went 36 matches without a clean sheet before defeating Perth Glory 2-0 in November 2016. That match was also their first victory at home in nine matches.

Their 2-1 victory over Adelaide United in Round 5 of the 2016-17 season was their first under Okon and their first win on Australian soil in 18 attempts.

Paul Okon’s side have gone on to keep six clean sheets in his reign which included two consecutive in Round 5 and 6 of this season. This was the first time they have held consecutive clean sheets since Round 19 and 20 of the 2014-15 season.

The Mariners scored four goals against Wellington in Okon’s 35th match, this was the first time they had scored four or more goals since 2012-13. Tony Walmsley’s Central Coast Mariners only got as many as three and did so on four occasions.

Players used
If players enjoy playing under their manager they are more likely to join or stay at your club. Walmsley used 37 players during his reign. He signed 11 players while 17 left including the experienced Liam Reddy, Eddy Bosnar, and club legends Matt Simon and John Hutchinson (retired in 2014-15).

Paul Okon has only used 30 players so far. He has signed 18 players and 22 have left the club, most notably Nick Montgomery who retired, and Roy O’Donovan who put three past them in this year’s F3 Derby.

It’s not just the number of players who have played for the club, it’s their ilk. Daniel Heffernan, Tomislav Uskok, Francesco Stella, and Matthew Fletcher are just some of the unknown players brought into the club via State Leagues.

While Okon has signed players with A-League experience such as Connor Pain and Andrew Hoole, exciting young player like Daniel de Silva, and experienced foreign players like Alan Baro, Wout Brama, and Tom Hiariej.

Coaches play a huge role in the discipline of a side. Whether it be via tactics or team morale. You often see teams being better or worse under different managers, this is the case for the Central Coast Mariners.

Under Tony Walmsley the Mariners received 85 yellow cards, and nine dismissals for a total of 94 bookings.

In the same time under Paul Okon, the Mariners have received 63 yellow cards, and five dismissals for a total of 68 bookings. Much better.

The Central Coast have appeared in four Grand Finals, and won the 2013 championship. But they haven’t made the finals since 2013-14 and have a couple of forgettable seasons. They seem to be on an upward trajectory under Okon and they’re only going to get better, and they’re always going to be much better under the former Socceroo.


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