The Central Coast Mariners may have to address Michael McGlinchey's absence sooner than anticipated after the Japan-bound All Whites midfielder missed training ahead of tomorrow night's A-League with the Wellington Phoenix in Sydney.
McGlinchey, who is poised to join former Mariners' coach Graham Arnold at the J-League's Vegalta Sendai, barely made it through warmups yesterday. He then retreated to the dressing room at North Sydney Oval for treatment on a pre-existing foot injury.
Mariners coach Phil Moss admitted the mix of international and A-League commitments had taken its toll on McGlinchey, 26, who is in the process of finalising a loan deal to reunite with Arnold north of Tokyo during the January transfer window.
"He's got a couple of niggles, he's had a lot of international football and very little rest over the last six months," Moss said.
"We wanted to give him every chance to be fit [for the Phoenix]. He hasn't been ruled out yet."
However, Moss is practically resigned to losing McGlinchey to Japan as the former Glasgow Celtic apprentice plots to develop his career in Asia's most competitive league.
"He'd be a huge loss, he's been one of our best players for 3-1/2 years," said Moss of an asset who has racked up more than 100 games for the club since 2009.
"He's helped us get to two grand finals and win a premiership. Mikey's an integral part of our team but we're big on developing players and sending them on to the next level.
"He's gone to an Olympic Games and a World Cup since he's been with us. If he gets his opportunity I'd be delighted personally but as a coach devastated."
Moss has no issue with Arnold seeking familiar faces to boost a squad that is 13th in the 18-team first division.
"For me, it would give me an immense amount of pride to see another player go to a top club in a top league.
"If it wasn't Arnie that came looking for him, it would have been someone else. I'd rather know that he's going to a club that's coached by someone who knows him."
Despite the prospect of losing the impish playmaker, the Mariners are hopeful of signing former star Bernie Ibini.
The 21-year-old has been training with his former team-mates after being granted extended compassionate leave from his Chinese club Shanghai East Asia after the death of his father.
"For me it would make a very sensible swap," Moss said. "Bernie plays a similar position to Mikey, he knows our structures and the way we like to play."
Meanwhile, the signs are again ominous for the winless and ninth-placed Phoenix despite Central Coast suffering a 4-0 defeat to Adelaide on Saturday.
Wellington have collected only a solitary point from their last eight games against the Mariners and have scored only three goals during that time frame.
Central Coast have won their last three home games against the Phoenix and have not conceded a goal to a side struggling to find the back of the net this season.
On a positive note the sixth-placed Mariners have also struggled offensively - they have scored only nine goals in nine matches so far, the same as the Phoenix.
Their top scorer is Argentine midfielder Marcos Flores with three, though he is yet to score in open play.
- © Fairfax NZ News