Can the Wanderers be an immediate success on the pitch? Read on to find out.
For all the haste with which the Western Sydney Wanderers came together, there is already something about the Hyundai A-League newest club that suggests they are in it for the long haul.
FFA have obviously learnt from previous mistake, and set about building the Wanderers from the ground up, talking to the local fans and supporter groups while they worked on the infrastructure in the background.
A little more than three months after the club revealed their name, they are all set to make the A-League debut against reigning premiers Central Coast.
Tony Popovic has been given a certain amount of licence to build a competitive squad, drawing on some proven local talent, some unproven youngsters and some unknown (for the most part) foreigners.
Popovic has been keeping his cards close to his chest but all information points to Wanderers implement the same athletic possession-based game that is quickly becoming de rigueur for A-League clubs; keep the ball moving, keep your players moving and press the opposition.
Of course, this all sounds good but “Popa” has only had a very short time in which to impress this strategy on his players; even Ange Postecoglou took a while to get Brisbane Roar playing as they did. For all his good work, time is not on Popovic-s side and with the majority of his squad only being together for about two months, it may take its toll as the season wears on.
But, again, there is a sense that the Wanderers are already a proper football team, a proper football club. There is a huge fanbase in Sydney-s western suburbs, just waiting to throw their support behind a team they can call their own.
The club remains a gamble for FFA. It-s always tough for debut teams; expectations are low for the first season (as are the playing contracts) - but if Popovic and his men can pull it off, football in Australia will be all the better for it.
Key player: Aaron Mooy The young Australian has already proven himself to be the driving force in the Wanderers midfield. Positive, skilful and always looking to move the ball forward, Mooy has the potential to be one of the stars of the season.
X-Factor: Shinji Ono Where Mooy brings the youthful exuberance, Japanese star Ono brings a wealth of experience, vision and creativity. Some Wanderers fans have expressed their frustration over the club-s failure to land Michael Ballack, but Ono presents the better deal; cheaper, younger and more willing to commit to life in Australia.
Coach: Tony Popovic After serving his apprenticeship at Sydney FC and Crystal Palace, Popa has certainly stepped into the limelight for his first senior coaching role. If he can coax enough out of his brand new team to give the Wanderers a respectable debut season - and one could argue it is more about potential than league placement this season - he will have done his job.
In: Shinji Ono (Iacopo La Rocca (Grasshopper-Club Zürich, Switzerland), Youssouf Hersi (Alki Larnaca, Cyprus), Jerome Polenz (Union Berlin, Germany), Tahj Minniecon, Jerrad Tyson, Reece Caira, Jason Trifiro , Ante Covic (Melbourne Victory), Labinot Haliti, Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle Jets), Michael Beauchamp, Mark Bridge, Shannon Cole (Sydney FC), Tarek Elrich (Newcastle Jets), Aaron Mooy (St Mirron, Scotland), Kwabena Appiah-Kubi (Central Coast Mariners)
Round 1 v Central Coast Mariners (H) The Wanderers make their historic Hyundai A-League debut against Graham Arnold-s tough and consistent premiers. A tough place to start but it should be a great event at Parramatta Stadium.
Round 3 v Sydney FC (H) The first ever Sydney derby looks set to explode. It was all anyone could talk about at the season launch at Parramatta Stadium, and with Ono v Del Piero, fans will be treated to some amazing international talent. Got your ticket yet?
Round 17 v Brisbane Roar (A) A trip to the champions midway through the season will give us a true indication of just how far the Wanderers have come in a very short space of time. It doesn-t get much tougher than this in the A-League.
(This is not the author-s prediction but an average of footballaustralia.com.au contributors.)