September 29, 2013
Devoted: the Red and Black Bloc. Photo: Getty Images
After finishing their inaugural season riding a tidal wave of form and popularity that made them the best story in Australian sport, the challenge for Western Sydney Wanderers is to build on their solid base and avoid second-season syndrome.
An extraordinary sellout of their 15,000-plus memberships three weeks before the first game of the season has laid the foundation off the field. Centre-back Michael Beauchamp believes the hunger he’s seen in the players around him throughout the pre-season suggests the team might go one better than last season when they lost to the Central Coast Mariners in the grand final in April.
”There is motivation from everyone to achieve more as a whole but we understand we have to be better than last season to achieve more,” Beauchamp said. ”Everyone will be expecting us to do well. But the other teams will have picked up too, some with new coaches and more stability.
Not a bad start: Shinji Ono and Mark Bridge celebrate winning the Premier’s Plate in the Wanderers’ inaugural season. Photo: Brendan Esposito
”There will be more competition. It would have been great to finish on a high. You play to win trophies and that’s motivation enough. But it’s been a tough pre-season and a good one because we’ve come out of it fit and ready. No one is resting on their heels, despite whatever we achieved last year.”
Coach Tony Popovic will continue working towards a settled starting line-up for the round one clash with the Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium on October 12, Beauchamp said, continuing with a trial against Melbourne Victory on Sunday in Hobart. It’s the latest in an interesting pre-season for the Wanderers. It included a 2-1 win over the Phoenix and a three-match 13-day trip to Japan and China – where they played Shimizu S-Pulse, Guangzhou and Tokyo Verdy. They returned to play a 1-1 draw with Adelaide in Penrith last weekend. ”Obviously the weather will be a little bit different in Hobart, but playing against a quality side like the Victory will give us a good insight into where we’re at at the moment, fitness-wise and tactically,” Beauchamp said. ”We haven’t played too many A-League sides so far, just Wellington and Adelaide, so we’re looking forward to that.
”We’re only a couple of weeks out from the season, so [Popovic] is looking at getting the main squad settled. I’m sure he wants to try out new players as well until we find the right starting line-up. There’s some good competition because we’ve been together for a while, a lot longer than last year, everybody’s on track, there’s no real injury problems and everybody’s fit.”
After their whirlwind debut campaign, Beauchamp said the Wanderers made the most of their time off. The players returned keen to avenge the bittersweet end to the season.
Beauchamp said it was ”brilliant” to know that, even before they kicked a ball at Parramatta Stadium, most seats would be taken for each home game by fans in red and black.
Twitter – @davesygall
The Sydney Morning Herald