OK, I’ll admit it. This year, I’ll be secretly cheering for Sydney FC.
OK, I-ll admit it. This year, I-ll be secretly cheering for Sydney FC.
The truth for fans of the Victory, the Reds, the Roar and others is that if they want their League to succeed, they also should be urging on a Sydney FC revival in the upcoming campaign because The Hyundai A-League depends on it.
Why? Great Football leagues are built on big rivalries.
The passion felt by fans towards adversaries near and far is the fuel upon which the game runs. The games great enmities give Football its greatest stories. Its failures and triumphs are nothing if not for the victor and the vanquished and their antipathy for each other.
Which is exactly what the Hyundai A-League had when it started and Sydney FC announced itself as Bling FC.
Suddenly its opponents had a reason for the season. Beating the uptown upstarts gave meaning to new rivalries, as Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United and others set about taking the high rollers down a peg or two.
As Dwight Yorke lead Sydney FC swaggering to the title in that first season it seemed the battle lines were clearly drawn. The Hyundai A-League had a narrative. It had good guys and bad guys, winners and losers - Fear and Loathing. It had arrived.
Except Sydney FC, despite winning the title again in 2009-10, never became the box office smash hit that it first promised. A succession of coaches came and went. Whilst the fans in The Cove provided unstinting support, vast acres of empty seats at The Sydney Football Stadium became a constant reminder that the team with an A Grade ambition had failed to live up to its billing.
Australian Football simply must have a thriving team in its most populous city.
Sydney is Australia-s most difficult and contested sports market. There is little argument that Football has a massive constituency that has yet to connect with the domestic competition and is now subject to a well resourced and sustained incursion from rival codes. The game simply can-t afford to lose the battle of hearts and minds in its heartland. And it-s why everyone should understand that if Sydney FC succeed, so does the game.
Not that the club deserves such goodwill or has earned the respect of its opponents.
It was telling that Harry Kewell chose Melbourne over his hometown team, something that must have stung a club that believes it is first amongst equals.
Sydney FC has so far squandered its opportunity to establish itself as the big club it claims to be. It might have won a couple of titles, but its failure to establish itself as part of the fabric of the city itself has been the result of ego, instability a revolving door in the coaches office and with on field personnel. It only has to look down the Hume Highway to its biggest rival, The Melbourne Victory, to see how things should have been done. Stability has been Melbourne-s mantra. Success on the field and crucially, off it has followed. Victory feel like they belong in Melbourne.
The same can-t yet be said for The Sky Blues.
However, the signing of Brett Emerton suggests that Vitezslav Lavicka-s steady revolution in Sydney is being built on sturdier foundations. With fellow Socceroos Nicky Carle, Michael Beauchamp and the potential of young stars like Scott Jamieson and Shannon Cole still to be fully realized, Sydney FC looks almost painfully well balanced and settled for a team that so far has been as much soap opera as it has been substance over its brief life.
The club has a choice. It either grows up and becomes a force or it continues to be the handbrake on the future success of the A-League. Sydney FC have tried walking the red carpet to success only to find themselves quickly behind the rope with all the other wannabes soon enough. It looks like it is rolling its sleeves up and preparing to do the hard work to be the type of Club others will once again fear.
And there-s nothing like the ire of your rivals to drag people through the turnstiles and put bums on seats. The man in the Black Hat is always the coolest and the biggest draw card.
The game desperately needs its bad guy back to give it something to love and loathe.