The coming of the Wanderers
One of Australia’s newest teams is on track to become a powerful force in the 2012/13 Hyundai A-League, writes Zach Workman-Brown.
It was saying something when Tony Popovic left a coaching position at the high- quality English football club Crystal Palace to take on the head coach role for the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers.
And it meant something when Lyall Gorman, the former head of the National Hyundai A-League, decided to take on the task of building the foundations of the club as its executive chairman.
Surely, with those two men behind them, the Wanderers are destined to make a name for themselves in the highest of Australian football competitions, and to stay there.
On April 4 this year, the new Sydney club was announced, and within four months, it has progressed to a team that has scored nine unanswered goals in three pre-season fixtures.
The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers are here to play.
The opening fixture saw nine officially signed players take the field, with the remaining spots filled by ambitious triallists. A convincing 5-0 win over State League Two outfit, Nepean FC, proved that the debut club has potential.
“Hopefully as we add players, the squad will work better together, understand each other better and we’ll see the team improve in the way we want to play,” said Popovic.
One week later, the Wanderers took on a more promising NSW Premier League squad, Blacktown Spartans FC, at Blacktown International Sportspark. A controlling display from the Wanderers forced two second-half goals to seal a 2-0 victory, continuing an impressive pre-season campaign.
Each game fielded with an incomplete squad, yet executed with cohesion, style and professionalism.
“We got a victory which is the main thing but more importantly we are continuing to work on our combinations which is our main goal throughout the pre-season,” said Aaron Mooy.
Not only did the team perform, but also attracted crowds of 3500, 4116 and 3472 respectively, breaking the average attendance of the now obsolete A-League club, Gold Coast United FC.
The first and most exciting announcements came in the form of the club name, strip and logo. With Nike inaugural apparel sponsors, a traditional red and black-hooped jersey with white shorts was revealed, almost emulating a previous Manchester United strip.
The unveiling of Parramatta Stadium as the Wanderers home pitch for the next five years is sure to attract decent crowds, with what is arguably the football heartland in this country, given the great Wests products. Popovic, Harry Kewell, and Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to mention few of many.
“Australia’s newest, oldest team” preserves links with the West, which were formed over a century ago. As Gorman puts it, they are here to “honour the history and build on the legacy”.
If history repeats itself, the Wanderers could rival the highest football attendance in Parramatta. 26,353 fans attended a local derby in the 90’s, between Western Sydney Clubs, Sydney Olympic and Marconi.
There is pressure riding on the squad to make an immediate impact, and not die out like North Queensland and the Gold Coast, but Popovic ensures his men will not be underprepared when the season kicks off in October.
The new club has to rise tremendously in order to be successful in the A-League. But given their first three outings, it is fair to say they are on the right track.
The Wanderers will come up against the Central Coast Mariners in their first ever A-League fixture on October 6 at Parramatta Stadium.