The Central Coast Mariners inspirational skipper and club legend, John Hutchinson will tonight break the Hyundai A-League record for the most appearances in Australia’s domestic competition and stand-alone for at least 48 hours, when the yellow and navy take on Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium.
Former Jet, Heart and Sky Blue Matt Thompson previously held the record, having made 221 appearances during a longstanding career in the Hyundai A-League. The 35-year old, who will earn his 222nd cap should he take the field at any stage tonight, is in direct competition with good mate and former Mariner Danny Vukovic, who equalled the record with Hutchinson in Perth Glory’s one all draw in Melbourne at the weekend.
The focus, however, will quite rightly centre on Hutch and the incredible way in which he has reached the milestone. Unlike Vukovic and Thompson, Hutchinson has made each of his league appearances for the yellow and navy, and will go down as one of the great one-club players.
Mariners’ Championship winning coach Graham Arnold also famously told him that he was no longer needed at the club in the weeks leading into the championship-winning season of 2012/13. There were overseas offers in place for him, but he chose to stay and fight for his spot in the squad. Hutch’s loyalty and perseverance was rewarded when he led his beloved Mariners to their maiden title that season.
Hutchinson has enjoyed a colourful career on the Central Coast. In the early days with the Mariners he played with attacking intent and was rewarded with a handful of jaw-dropping goals – two of the best and most memorable came against Sydney FC in October 2007.
The first caught Sky Blues keeper Clint Bolton by surprise. Collecting a Tom Pondeljak pass in the centre of the park, Hutchinson made space for himself before unleashing with his right boot from all of 25 yards, rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
The second rocked the top corner again from similar distance, only this time he latched onto the ball with his left peg. Andre Gumprecht was the architect, cutting in from the right before laying the ball ahead of Hutch, and without even a steadying touch he stunned gloveman Clint Bolton again in what was a truly memorable moment.
Both were incredible goals but if you ask Hutch about his favourite – he will tell you that it was his left foot half volley against Perth Glory in a New Year’s fixture in 2008. Again, an impressive strike but it wasn’t the quality of the goal which ranks it number one, the strike was a farewell present for outgoing Mariner, Mile Jedinak who played his last match for the yellow and navy that night.
In recent years, Hutchinson has evolved into one of the most reliable footballers in the Hyundai A-League, controlling things from the heart of midfield and proving difficult to beat in his defensive duties.
Interestingly, Hutchinson’s reputation as a hard man doesn’t translate statistically. He has racked up in excess of 50 yellow tickets, but only once has he been given his marching orders by the referee – when he picked up two yellows during a 1-0 loss to Sydney FC on Boxing Day in 2012.
Hutch will be forever remembered for many outstanding achievements as he steps out for his milestone fixture tonight but none greater than lifting the Hyundai A-League Champions trophy for the first time in 2013.
Thursday 12 March 2015
Match: Adelaide United vs. Central Coast Mariners – Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Round 21
Venue: Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Kick-off: 7:30pm (AEDT)
Television: Live on FOX SPORTS 505 (Watch live at Central Coast Leagues Club or Gosford RSL)
Radio: Live on 96.3 Coast FM & ABC Grandstand
Twitter: Join the match conversation using #ADLvCCM #CCMFC