Sheffield United receive an invitation to visit Australia
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Nick Montgomery, the club’s former midfielder and now in charge of Central Coast Mariners, issued the invitation after growing tired of seeing England’s leading names arrange fixtures with bigger but less successful A-League teams.
Manchester United, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Leeds are among those to travel Down Under in recent years. But none of them have faced the Mariners, who have enjoyed two remarkable campaigns since appointing Montgomery as their head coach. Possessing the smallest budget in the competition, the Gosford based side have just finished second in the table and are on the verge of reaching the Grand Final after handing more minutes to home grown players than anyone else in the competition.
“It would be great to see United come down here,” Montgomery, who made nearly 400 appearances for them, told The Star. “They’ve just got back into the top-flight and I think there’s a lot of similarities between us both. A lot of clubs from England come over here now but they’ve never played us which is a real shame.”
“United, being in the Prem, are obviously a great side again,” he added. “But I think people would be really surprised with the standards that we could set. We’d definitely give them a game and hopefully it’s something they’ll consider.”
Montgomery, a graduate of United’s renowned academy programme, spent more than a decade at Bramall Lane and was a member of the squad which won promotion to the Premier League in 2006 under Paul Heckingbottom’s legendary predecessor Neil Warnock.
As well as the accent on youth, which United also producing the likes of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Phil Jagielka and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in recent seasons, he identified a number of other similarities between them and the Mariners, who defeated Adelaide in the first leg of their play-off semi-final over the weekend.
The production line at the Industree Group Stadium, the Mariners’ home, is arguably one of the best in Asian competition with Newcastle, Heart of Midlothian and Bayern Munich among those to plunder it, Jason Cummings, whose career has been resurrected under Montgomery, was recently offered what one newspaper described as “life changing money” to complete a transfer to India.
“I see quite a few United shirts in the crowd over here, because the fans are aware of my connection with the club,” Montgomery said. “We’ve also had fans come over from England as well, and they dropped by for a game when they were in the area. I made sure we made a fuss of them, because it was great that they’d made the effort.”
“United are a community club and that’s what we are here as well,” he added. “After the Covid lockdown, I made sure we went out into the community, going into schools and meeting local businesses so they feel a part of what we’re building as well. I think that’s vitally important, because it's what the game is all about."