A-League: explore football

On April 4th, 2012 Ben Buckley fronted a Football Federation Australia press conference with the news that a second Sydney team would be coming to the A-League. Soon after a number of fan forums were held across western Sydney, in a bid to engage with a possible fan base. Pivotal to the club’s on-field success was the May 12, 2012 appointment of manager Tony Popovic. By June 25th, 2012 it was official: The Western Sydney Wanderers had been born.

Western Sydney Wanderers went on to achieve a record breaking season, which included winning the Premiers Plate and qualifying for the 2014 Asian Champions League. So successful is the club that current owners ‘the FFA’, have stated that potential buyers are going to have to bid around A$15 million for ownership. FFA CEO David Gallop said, “It wouldn’t be overstating it to say they’re the sporting club with the most potential in the whole country . . .”

Club sponsors for the inaugural season wouldn’t have anticipated the massive exposure the club gained. Considering Wests had failed after three matches to score a goal in professional competition, club backers could easily have feared the worst, but gradually results came. Local boy and manager Tony Popovic remained stoic in the face of the storm, something which characterised his playing career. “There are no favourites here, no set individuals guaranteed a place, but we’re one unit with a goal to keep improving,” Popovic said after a 1-1 draw away to Perth Glory in round 13. Popovic’s playing career took him to Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 1997 and onto Crystal Palace in 2001. For this reason it was no surprise that ‘Poppa’ was able to snare Japanese ace Shinji Ono amongst a host of other foreign signings. A cult favourite was unheralded Ethiopian Youssouf Hersi who was spotted in the Dutch Eredivisie.

The club’s timeline is a miraculous story of success and needs to be seen to be believed:

April 4th, 2012: New Sydney club announced.
April 19th, 2012: East Asian Soccer covers the story and predicts WSW to become, “the club in Australian soccer.” 
June 25th, 2012: Club name and colours officially announced.
July 26th, 2012: Major sponsor NRMA Insurance announced.
September 21st, 2012: Former Socceroos team-mate of Popovic, Michael Beauchamp named club captain.
September 28th, 2012: Shinji Ono signs as marquee player.
October 6th, 2012: First competition match against Central Coast Mariners ends 0-0 in front of 10458 fans.
October 20th, 2012: First Sydney derby with Sydney FC winning 1-nil at Parramatta Stadium.
October 27th 2012: First win comes against reigning champions Brisbane Roar, in Brisbane.
December 15th, 2012: Wanderers defeat Sydney FC 2-nil in Sydney derby at Sydney Football Stadium in front of 26176 fans.
March 2nd, 2013: Ascent to top of table is completed with victory over Central Coast at Gosford.
March 29th, 2013: Win Premiers Plate in front of massive travelling contingent at Newcastle.
April 21st, 2013: Grand Final appearance brings a taste of defeat via A-League’s famed chokers Central Coast Mariners.

What next for a club that achieved so much in its inaugural season? With Popovic’s perfectionist attitude you can bet the title of Champions is uppermost on the club’s list of targets. There is also the small matter of the Asian Champions League, which will place the club, the western Sydney region, and sponsors in the spotlight of Asia. The prospect of a clash between Ono’s former J-League club Urawa Reds, and Western Sydney Wanderers is mouth watering. Will the club meddle with the eye catching red and black playing strip that has broken merchandise sales records across all sporting codes in Australia? Can the club better it’s first season membership numbers (just over 7000) and increase crowd averages? Already the club has signed A-League journey man Dean Heffernan. The defender will look to feature from the first clash which comes on Saturday, October 12th, at Gosford.

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Spreading the word on soccer in East Asia.


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