Wanderers are Victory's real rivals
Western Sydney Wanderers had to succeed for the future of the game in this country - now can they threaten Melbourne Victory’s claims to being the biggest club in the A-League?
Football has always been a great teacher. This season the game-s finest lesson to fans has been be careful what you wish for.
Western Sydney Wanderers had to succeed for the future of the game in this country, but how did they become the most exciting club in the Hyundai A-League so quickly?
And will they soon be threatening Melbourne Victory-s claims to being the biggest club in the A-League?
As footballer lovers scan the A-League table they are both delighted, startled and a little bit spooked by the sight of Western Sydney nestling comfortably, deservedly in second spot.
As they prepare to travel south for their Saturday night showdown with Melbourne Victory, the Wanderers enjoy a two-point gap above their hosts and rivals.
Whilst most fans were kindly disposed toward the Wanderers as the new club made its first tentative steps on the national stage, few could have foreseen just how successful they would be from the off.
Most football fans understood the importance of the game establishing a strong, sustainable presence in the vast suburban expanse that is Greater Western Sydney.
For years the game had been yearning to reconnect with its mythical heartland, a claim that often left fans elsewhere more than a little bemused.
The fear of yet another failed franchise, this time in this most cherished footballing fiefdom was too frightening to contemplate.
And so for all but the most ardent members of the Cove, a successful Western Sydney Wanderers is as much a win for the game as it is for Tony Popovic and his Red & Black Bloc.
The Wanderers feel a lot more like a fully formed football club and a hell of a lot less like a prefab football franchise like the ones deposited in North Queensland and on the Gold Coast in recent times.
Crucially, there is an affinity and empowerment amongst its growing legion of fans who are packing in to Paramatta Stadium for home games.
There is also a special sense of continuity from the old football to the new as well.
Paramatta Stadium has deep links to the old NSL (The very last NSL Grand Final was played there)and it-s wonderful that a sense of that heritage runs through the veins of the game once again.
It-s about time the FFA was less afraid of its history. The Wanderers experience is a timely reminder of that.
And already, some have boldly suggested that Wanderers have already passed Sydney FC as Melbourne Victory-s main rival as the game's greatest inter city rivalry.
That is certainly premature, but it-s not an outlandish prediction.
Yet to truly challenge Melbourne Victory, the Wanderers will have to do what all great football clubs do - win something.
Melbourne Victory have history. At this point, Western Sydney are still feeding off aspiration.
Victory have two titles to their name and have tales epic battles both won and lost. It-s a narrative afforded by the benefit of experience, but it-s an authentic story just the same.
Melbourne Victory have done what few clubs in the history of the game in this country have. They have transcended the status of “soccer club” with all the attendant suspicion and hostility usually afforded the game in the mainstream media in AFL-obsessed Melbourne.
Victory have earned a seat at the table even with the most reluctant of stakeholders by their success and sheer weight of numbers. Simply put, even the great detractors can-t ignore them.
The Wanderers still have that battle to win.
Still, Western Sydney are a work in progress, and the real test of their character as a team and club will not be during the honeymoon period of their inaugural season, but when the wins dry up and the injuries mount.
Football affords no one a free ticket to ride, and it is when times are toughest that true character is both exposed and built.
Great football clubs have the scars to show that pain and disappointment are as much a part of their story as success.
The Wanderers are yet to face those sorts of challenges. How they deal with them will tell us more about this exciting new club than winning ever could.