With the season fast approaching I decided to pay a visit to last season’s Premiers the Western Sydney Wanderers and see how they are shaping up for the upcoming Hyundai A-League season.
After last season’s performance the A-League new boys can no longer stay under the radar and with memberships sold out there are massive expectations from both the club and the fans.
During my visit I spoke with Wanderers CEO Lyall Gorman to find out how preparations are tracking for the upcoming season.
Gorman stated that the Wanderers are aiming to be a ”world class football club, the pride of Western Sydney”
This campaign the Wanderers will be focusing on successfully meeting the club’s key performance indicators that were developed through the community forums last year. Gorman highlighted that the fans expect the team to “stand up for us, be competitive and make us proud” he said.
The Wanderers are aiming to progress their sports science techniques, match day experience, membership experience and merchandising.
Gorman also had the following message to the fans leading into the 2013/14 A-League season.
“ We will do everything in our absolute power to make sure that they feel apart of our club, proud of our club and to continue to contribute to the growth of our club” he said.
On the field Popovic has retained the services of the majority of his squad, bringing in only a handful of new faces.
Brendon Santalab joins the team from China and has had a fantastic pre-season, he has the ability to score goals, make intelligent runs off the ball and close down defenders. He is definitely one to look out for and will cause plenty of headaches for the opposition.
Tomi Juric joins the Wanderers from Adelaide United, another player that has had a successful pre-season coinciding with his first Australian cap and goal. Popovic has also added experience to his backline with the signing of utility Dean Heffernan.
Captain Michael Beauchamp is targeting more silverware this season and is relishing his leadership role within the team.
“The pre-season has been tough, but we are ahead of where we were last year. This pre-season has seen an improvement in the intensity and quality of passing” he said.
The team has also benefited from being together for a full preseason culminating in an overseas tour to allow players and staff to gain valuable experience for their upcoming Asian Champions League campaign.
This season the Wanderers will look to go one better and add the Championship to their Premiership. The challenge is now playing with the expectations that are placed on the team. Approximately 15,500 memberships have been sold and this should see the ‘house full’ sign go up at Wanderland at every home game.
The RBB and Wanderers supporters have breathed life back into the competition, adding colour, noise and creating an overwhelming atmosphere for opponents.
Tactically the Wanderers have strengthened their forward line, as this was a weakness in the previous campaign. Haliti, Juric and Santalab will offer Popovic plenty of options to alter his game plan.
The Mariners showed in last season’s grand final that when teams press the Wanderers, play with width and push their fullbacks up into the Wanderers defensive third they will create problems for the Premiers’ ability to get out of trouble and retain possession.
Walking around the training ground and offices of the Wanderers, I saw no signs of complacency or dwelling on the remarkable previous season. It was like it didn’t even happen and as Beauchamp pointed out to me “the boys are all on the same page and focused on what they need to do”.
He also had a message to the fans come the start of the season; “Nothing will be left on the field from the Wanderers players”.
The fans and community should have every confidence that their team will give everything they have both on and off the field this season, to make sure the Wanderers are the pride of the west.