Okon talked me into swapping Spain for Central Coast, says Baro

When Alan Baro returned to Spain at the conclusion of his contract with Melbourne Victory last season, he didn’t think he’d be returning to Australia anytime soon.


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An impressive year with the A-League’s biggest club – after overcoming a slow start – was enough to ensure ample interest in Europe, especially in his home country.

While Victory decided against renewing the 32-year old’s contract so they could make a play for Rhys Williams, the Mariners were lurking in the background, putting together a pitch to lure Baro back to Australia.

Coach Paul Okon was so determined to get his man that he was prepared to make Baro captain, telling him that he wanted the Spaniard to play a major mentoring role with the club’s younger players.

Alan Baro

Set to make his debut in the heat of Saturday’s F3 Derby at Bluetongue Stadium, Baro – who starred in last season's finals series – is certain he’s made the right decision.

“I had a great year with Melbourne and I can only say good things about them. They were really honest with me about their situation and their future planning, which was totally understandable,” he told The World Game. “So I went back to Spain for a holiday and I expected to stay, especially because there were a few offers.

“But then I had a chat with 'Paulo' and he told me all the reasons about why I should join Central Coast, saying it would be great for my family and the lifestyle was great here. He explained his vision to change the team, how he wanted me to play a big role and that we could improve a lot.

“We talked about it as a family and we decided it would be right move. It actually wasn’t that hard to make a decision and so far, I’m very happy.”

Baro is one of several new faces on the Hawkesbury, with Okon recruiting fellow Spaniard Asdrúbal for the attack whilst completely rebuilding the midfield. Dutch duo Wout Brama and Tom Hiariej will pair off as the holding midfielders while much-hyped youngsters Daniel De Silva and Andrew Hoole (who will miss the opening match through suspension) are expected to bring the excitement.

The Mariners have enjoyed strong results in the pre-season, suggesting that they could be one of the competition's big improvers after several years out of contention. However, Baro believes it's too soon to be getting excited.

“We did well in some friendly games and everyone has seen that but we have to be careful. I don't like to focus too much on pre-season because it doesn't count for anything in the league,” he said. “But there's good signs and I hope it means that our structure can hold up and that our performances are going to improve.

“If anything, I hope that the people on the Central Coast have seen what we’re doing and we can make them proud. We want them to feel like they’ve got a competitive team again. We’ve played against Victory and Sydney and done well. It shows we can compete and we certainly believe in ourselves.”

The Mariners have won only one of their past eight derby matches but that win did come in their most recent fixture, a 2-0 home win last April. However, while the Jets will be able to call upon ex-Mariners’ striker Roy O’Donovan, he never scored against Baro in three matches against the Victory last year.

“Playing against Newcastle is always a big game for Central Coast, especially for the fans,” he said. “But more important is that it’s round one and we need to make a good start, especially at home. If we do get all three points, it will bring us the momentum that I hope will carry on for the rest of the year.”

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4 min read
Published 6 October 2017 at 8:39am
By Sebastian Hassett