Introducing the Western Sydney Wanderers
Looking for a wacky foreign club to follow next season to appear cool and intelligent in front of your friends? Apart from FK Jagodina, of course. Then look no further than Western Sydney Wanderers FC.
The Wanderers were only officially launched on the 25th of June, so if you jump on the bandwagon now, no-one can accuse you of being a glory hunter when they inevitably conquer the footballing world in the near future. But in all seriousness, why has this club come into existence?
Sydney’s west has always been one of the most active regions in terms of football participation, but when the A-League kicked off in 2005, there wasn’t space to accommodate a team from that area. Soccer NSW, who bid for the license for the new team, were involved in various disagreements with others with a stake in the club, which led them to pull out just a month after the club was launched.
One of the main bones of contention was the location of the club, and while Soccer NSW wanted to base the team in the west, those that favoured a more centrally located team eventually won out, meaning that Sydney FC would play at the Sydney Football Stadium. This was a blow for the western Sydney footballing community, which has boasted a significant number of clubs in the old National Soccer League, including teams such as Marconi (once the home of a young Christian Vieri), A.P.I.A. Leichardt, and Parramatta Power. As a result, Sydney FC has failed to connect with the vast majority of fans in the west.
But enough of the boring stuff. How did the Wanderers come to be formed? The first hint of a Western Sydney team actually appeared in 2009, when a consortium backing ‘Sydney Rovers FC’ were given a provisional license for the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately they were unable to find adequate funding, and the license was thereby cancelled.
Then in February 2012, Gold Coast United, owned by madcap mining magnate Clive Palmer, had their license revoked for a variety of breaches of Football Federation Australia policies. This created a space for a new team, and the intention to base it in Western Sydney was hastily announced in April.
The early days of the new club were shrouded in mystery. All we knew was that there would be a new team, owned and administrated by the FFA. All information related to the new team came under the banner of ‘New Sydney Club’. The first sign of progress came in the form of various fan forums held around the west, often attended by one Mark Bosnich. These took the form of Q&A free for alls, with some sensible and many ridiculous suggestions (“We should never sign any foreign players”) being made. The interest in these forums provided confirmation (not that it was needed) that there was a large supporter base for the new club.
Things really got interesting when those that had registered with the new team were sent online surveys covering everything you could think of. There were questions about preferred style of play, “ethos”, and some sections full of buzzwords like “loyalty” and “passionate” that you had to rank in order of their applicability to your ideal team.
The useful part, however, was the voting on team name and colours. The initial list of names (or nick-names, as most of them were) was enormous, and contained some atrocious suggestions such as “b-boys” and “westies”. These were eventually whittled down to a more respectable list: Athletic, Rangers, Strikers, Wanderers and Wolves. I voted for Athletic, but you can’t always get what you want, apparently. Wanderers has some historical significance, as the first recored club in Australia is widely considered to be the Wanderers, founded in Parramatta in 1880 (the first recorded game took place at Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum, which might explain Kevin Muscat’s general footballing philosophy). The final colours chosen were red, white and black.
The Wanderers will play their home games at Parramatta Stadium, home to the mighty Parramatta Eels rugby league team. They’ll hope to fare better than their egg chasing cohorts, who are currently stuck firmly to the bottom of the National Rugby League. There are plans to rename the stands (currently named after rugby league legends) during the football season, as well as changing the colour scheme (currently blue and yellow). Further down the track, the club intends to own its own stadium.
The Wanderers will be managed by Crystal Palace legend Tony Popovic, who has reportedly signed two Croatian players up on his scouting mission through Europe, so one can safely assume that Luka Modric will soon be strutting his stuff in Sydney’s west. Popovic was previously assistant manager and briefly caretaker coach at bitter rivals Sydney FC.
There are only three players officially unveiled so far, but what players they are! The most notable among them is marauding right back Tarek Elrich, formerly of the Newcastle Jets. Joining him are St Mirren legend Aaron Mooy and Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, a promising young striker plucked from the Parramatta Eagles.
Michael Beauchamp, Shannon Cole, Mark Bridge (Sydney FC), Ante Covic (Melbourne Victory) and Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle) have all reportedly been signed up as well.
The main goal for any new team in the A-League is survival, given the unfortunate demise of the New Zealand Knights, North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United. On the pitch, with no relegation in the A-League, results are not THAT important in the first season. With a marquee player unlikely and a lot of the top domestic talent already tied up, times will be tough for the Wanderers but they should certainly be competitive and are highly unlikely to become whipping boys.
Stay tuned for further signings, pre-season friendly results, and come October, the start of the Wanderers’ journey to the top of the A-League.