Tomorrow night Marcos Flores will face Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium, his first A-League game for the Central Coast Mariners against the Reds. The Latin playmaker, who started his A-League career at Hindmarsh, will no doubt face a hostile reception, as he did in pre-season when the small crowd who watched the Reds against the Mariners booed his every touch. This is hardly unusual both in Australia and across the globe, earlier this season Scott Jamieson, another ex-Red, faced a barrage of abuse from the home fans while turning out for Perth Glory in Round One, while terrible tales of vitriol and violence from further afield are common when professionals dare take to the pitch against a former club. This negativity can be understood as ‘banter’, the willingness of the home crowd to extend its influence onto the ninety minutes by taunting a player now the enemy rather than ‘one of us’. But it can also be seen as disrespectful, casting aspersions upon a player’s character, in many cases due to money, and forgetting their contribution to the cause of the home side in years past. Each individual within Coopers Stadium will have their own thoughts on how to treat Flores on Saturday night, so it is apt that today we reflect on his contribution to the Reds.
Marcos Flores was once a Reds hero, captivating local fans with his exquisite first touch, his perfectly weighted passing and his appreciation of space. Signed initially as an injury replacement in 09/10 after learning his trade in his native Argentina Flores soon adapted to the speed and physically of our local league. In the 2010/11 season the Australian public saw the very best of Marcos as he carried Adelaide to a third place finish under Dutchman Rini Coolen’s reign. The creative source of practically everything attacking for the Reds that season Flores finished the year with nine A-League goals, eight assists and the Johnny Warren medal, a prestigious accolade voted upon by the players of the A-League and awarded each season to the best. Marcos remains the only United player to receive this award, but beyond this his contribution to the cause could be seen in the media attention that followed him everywhere across Adelaide. The profile of the Reds amongst the non-footballing public at this time was due primarily to Flores’ media manner, always willing to participate in kids clinics, or talk up the city, especially its beaches, for tomorrow’s newspaper.
At the end of that season Flores departed Australia for China, not so much for a better quality of football but, in most supporters minds at least, for marquee wages we in Adelaide could not realistically afford. United received a significant transfer fee for the Argentine, who in the end could not settle in Asia and terminated his contract with Henan Jianye after only twelve months. Speculation was high he would return to the Reds, Marcos himself stated his desire to return ‘home’ via social media, but in his time away much had changed at United. The Rini Coolen era had collapsed after Flores’ departure, Marcos’ attacking and entertaining worth most clearly evident in his absence. John Kosmina had returned to running the Reds with a very different footballing philosophy, one which was arguably at odds with Marcos’ style and personality. Behind the scenes too the purse strings seemed tighter and ultimately Flores had to look elsewhere in Australia for employment. That he ended up at Melbourne Victory was the most bitter blow for the Reds faithful, appearing for the blue boys from across the border instantly making anyone persona non grata in South Australia. For the Victory last year Flores showed glimpses of his United form, although he was asked to adapt to a different role in a team going through transition and it seemed he missed being central to his side’s attacking plans.
Despite being contracted as a marquee for the Victory again this season it was no surprise to see Marcos on the move earlier this year, turning up at the Central Coast, a champion side looking for a refined number ten to take them to the next level, especially in the Asian Champions League. So far this season we have seen more of the original Marcos, the speed of foot and thought that bedazzles defenders and that cheeky grin that expresses a love of football and life at all times. While for many Reds fans it will be difficult to watch Flores work his magic against United tomorrow night it will at least be an opportunity to see first hand a rare character and footballing talent, one that has contributed greatly to the club’s short history.