This ain’t no fairytale
There’s nothing magical about Western Sydney’s debut-season premiership; it’s all about the real talent and desire of Tony Popovic and his team.
There-s nothing magical about Western Sydney-s debut-season premiership; it-s all about the real talent and desire of Tony Popovic and his team.
There-s not much left to say about the Wanderers. The club-s fantastical, inexorable rise has been charted almost daily through this dramatic season. We know all about the club-s beginnings, the fan forums, the by-in of the local community, the local players come good and the international talent that has impressed us more with every game.
But after that comprehensive defeat of Newcastle last night, two things should be noted above else.
Firstly, the fantastic, noisy and committed support of the Red and Black Bloc. That uncontrollable passion has both invigorated the game in this country - just look at some of the back pages their support has won - and caused so much consternation for those outside of the game.
If there is a line for good supportership, the Red and Black Bloc do stray perilously close sometimes but that-s just the flip side of everything that-s made them so bloody good to watch this year.
Anyone who-s been to a game where Western Sydney have been involved can-t help but to have been blown away by the atmosphere. Yeah, they might give the anti-football scaremongers something to feed on - but that-s easily outweighed by everything they-ve brought to the game.
Secondly, and most importantly, is Tony Popovic. No one wins the league in their first season as head coach. FFA-s commitment to the grand final aside, the victor of the home-and-away season surely carries more weight, rather than the knockout format of the finals series.
After a relatively short apprenticeship, Popovic took Western Sydney straight into the competition with the clearest football philosophy the Hyundai A-League has seen since Ange Postecoglou-s record-breaking Brisbane Roar side.
The Wanderers aren-t quite so easy on the eye but they have structure, discipline, tactical awareness and belief in each other. Perhaps it-s just a season-long honeymoon period - when you-re hot, you-re hot and we-re yet to see how they-ll respond when results don-t go their way - but that winning attitude has permeated every aspect of their season.
Like Postecoglou, Popovic has turned inconsistent local players into week-in, week-out performers - just look at Mark Bridge or Nikolai Topor-Stanley. And his eye for a foreign talent that would fit into his plan is just as well constructed. After a slow start, no one can argue against Shinji Ono-s class - and ebullient winger Youssouf Hersi perhaps sums up the Wanderers season more than most.
Whether or not Western Sydney go on to claim the grand final - and you-d have to admit they-re probably favourites now - this has been a season no one will forget.
But don-t fall for those who tell you they-ve had an enchanted run or that this has been some kind of fairytale. Those things don-t exist. The Wanderers have played, thought and fought their way to the premiership. And they deserve every inch of it.