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The rise of Western Sydney Wanderers

Modified 20 Mar 2013

The A-League garnered much interest from many parts of the world before the season kicked off. Sydney FC became a household name with the marquee signing of Juventus talisman Alessandro del Piero. The Newcastle Jets were ridiculed for signing former England striker Emile Heskey, but they soon had their critics eating their own words with Heskey’s goal-scoring spree. For once, the A-League started to steal headlines and there was a buzz towards how the new signings would turn out in foreign lands. But what many overlooked was the start of a fairytale story for a new club – The Western Sydney Wanderers(WSW).

The same time last year, there was no Western Sydney Wanderers. Now, they are the team that tops the A-League table (Premiers Plate) and with a fantastic chance to win the title when they compete in the finals series. There have been numerous fairy tales around teams, their comebacks, their fight against bankruptcy and their rise to the top. But very few would rival the Wanderers’ story, even if they failed to win in the final.

Such a story was made possible thanks to the Football Federation Australia (FFA). Western Sydney has always been earmarked as a prime destination for a football club and despite repeated attempts at starting a club, nothing concrete came off it. With the FFA finally losing patience, they made a master-stroke.

The Association itself had plans to start a new team and they announced their plans on 4th April, 2012. After the announcement of the new team, Lyall Gorman, WSW’s chairman said, “I know the sense of anticipation and expectation of this football community. They’ve been waiting a long, long time for their own united football team. It’s exciting to have their input on the core values of the club: passion, respectfulness, inclusiveness – all these words give me a lot of faith that we’re going to build something very special here.” He couldn’t have been more right.

They immediately moved to get a coach who would be familiar with the settings. Crystal Palace assistant manager and former Sydney FC player, Tony Papovic was snapped up as the manager. He started to build the team he wanted and with the likes of del Piero and Heskey moving to other teams, there was a sense of anticipation around regarding which big name will move to WSW. They were in talks with former Germany captain, Michael Ballack but the talks broke down. The eventually signed Japanese mid-fielder Shinji Ono.

Life on the big stage was not so easy as their current position indicates. The failed to score in any of their first 3 A-League matches and had managed only 1 draw. In their fourth game, against defending champions Brisbane Roar, the Wanderers scripted their first success story. The first of many that followed this season. They now have 10 wins on the trot and sit five points ahead of second placed Central Coast Mariners FC with just 3 games to play.

This level of success for the WSW is but only a small part of the story. It is their fans that have been the talk of the town. The team from West Sydney boast of the highest average attendance in the league and also the most vociferous of Ultras in the Red and Black Bloc (RBB). The RBB has given the WSW the kind of atmosphere most European big boys enjoy and reflects the amount of passion. During a recent game against Wellington Pheonix, the RBB had the entire, yes entire, stadium chanting for their team. The RBB pointed out to one half of the stadium, asking ‘Who do we sing for?’ and was met with a booming ‘We sing for Wanderers’ from that section. The RBB also perform the Poznan in the 80th minute of all home matches to in recognition of the first ever association football game played at the ground (Parramatta) in 1880.

Such following for a club that is still in its infancy would make many others go green with envy, but it has given the Western Sydney Wanderers a reason to believe that miracles are possible. With such stout backing and credible performances to their name, it won’t be long before WSW becomes a name to reckon with in the A-League.

Published 20 Mar 2013, 20:28 IST
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