Analysis: Popovic’s legacy at Western Sydney Wanderers

Tony Popovic will always be a Western Sydney Wanderers legend – despite the bombshell he dropped announcing today (Sun) he was leaving the club a week before their season opener.

Popovic’s legacy is extraordinary. He is an extraordinary Australian at an extraordinary Aussie sporting success story.

To have won an Asian Champions League final barely two-and-a-half years after forming the club may never ever be achieved by any club in the region. Ever.

Simply put, it was an achievement of epic proportions. It put “Popa” very much on the map as a coach and he’s been fending off big international offers ever since that famous day in Saudi Arabia in November 2014.

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He also won an A-League Championship in his first season (top of the home and away table).

Numerous A-League finals and ACL campaigns adorned his time at Wanderland since they were formed in 2012.

He even took them to a Club World Cup in Africa (though that proved less successful though no less interesting for the players and coach).

What a five years it’s been.

The only pity is Popovic leaves without achieving one major goal – winning the Hyundai A-League Championship.

Tony Popovic has resigned as coach of Western Sydney Wanderers

He’s been close on three occasions.

The irony of course is that the team he’s built this season are, according to many pundits including me, ready and able to finally win a Grand Final.

Popovic never won an FFA Cup Final either. The team are on track for a first ever final appearance too with a semi final later this month.

So, the team that Popa built – or more accurately rebuilt and refocused over time – could finally win on the final day of the season in 2018.

If they do win a grand final, it’ll be done without the man who built the club’s ethos and culture.

It’s a massive loss. But that’s football. Besides, Popa was never going to stay around forever.

It is sad he won’t coach the club at their fabulous new stadium, though I’ve no doubt he’ll be welcomed back at that venue (perhaps the Tony Popovic Stand at the new Wanderland in Parramatta could be his lasting legacy?)

Nothing changes for Popovic

But leaving on the eve of the season will raise eyebrows from their many fans, though I’m sure they’ll be proud their coach has been deemed good enough to enter the cauldron of Turkish football.

And if anyone is prepared for this bold new step, it’ll be Tony Popovic. The master planner, master motivator and potential future Socceroos coach, is set to test his undoubted potential as a coach.


Source  :  My Football

Against France in that game, four current Hyundai A-League senior head coaches were on the park for Australia. Name them?

A: Tony Popovic (WSW) Kevin Muscat (Victory) Paul Okon (CCM) and John Aloisi (Roar).


Source :  Football Federation Australia


Analysis: Why Tony Popovic is the dream believer

If there’s one person who knows how Tony Popovic gets into the minds of his players is Wanderers’ great and ACL-winning hero Ante Covic.

Covic, a foundation Wanderers, played three seasons in Parramatta, parting ways with the club at the expiration of his contract a year ago.

The amazingly fit-looking 40-year-old keeper has barely missed a beat since swapping Parra and Popa for Cottesloe and Kenny.

The former Jets, Victory and Hammarby shot-stopper – one of the few who’s played NSL and A-League – has been one of the standout performers at Perth Glory in Season 2015-16, helping the WA outfit to a finals finish.

However, he’s still hugely passionate about the red and black and he’ll be supporting his former teammates in their pursuit of an elusive Championship on Sunday.

After Wanderers’ crushing losses to the Mariners (2013) and Roar a year later at Suncorp, the club must rewrite their own short but storied history. And league history.

Only one interstate team has ever won a grand final – so Wanderers will need to emulate what Sydney FC did at Etihad six years ago when they edged Victory on penalties (ironically it was current Wanderer Mark Bridge who scored in regulation time for the Sky Blues that day).

And if they pull it off, the master motivator, a man known as “Popa” – whose reputation and powers to motivate and organise his troops have become legendary in just four years as a senior coach – will be pivotal.

Covic offered his insights into how Popovic will have his players mentally ready to overcome the Reds in Sunday’s Hyundai A-League Grand Final at Adelaide Oval.

“I know from day one in pre-season he had ‘champions’ written on the board,” recalled Covic of his first season at Wanderland.

“And we ended up as champions [of the league]. He’s a great motivator, he’ll make the players believe.

“He’s very blunt and very honest. He’s a great motivator, knows how to bring out your best. He builds you up, he doesn’t put the team down –  he believes in the team.

“When Popa speaks you have that genuine belief that he speaks to you in an honest way. And he actually has belief in a team.

“And that’s been his strength in the years I was there.”

That belief was on show last Sunday at Wanderland. Three goals down inside 25 minutes and many coaches would have panicked. Understandably so.

Not Popovic, who remained calm and composed on the sidelines as his men worked their way back into a contest that looked gone for all money – they eventually won 5-4.

Belief. It can do some wonderful things.


“When he spoke to you it wasn’t just in one ear, out the other, that it was just some mumbo-jumbo,” added Covic.

“When he spoke to you it was because he believed in you.

“Popa doesn’t play mind games with other coaches. His main focus is instilling confidence in the team.

“And if they play their game at the best of their ability they are such a compact unit, and aggressive that they can suffocate teams. And they’ll need to do that in Adelaide.

“Lke Popa says, ‘the games are won in both boxes’.

“And right now he has the calibre of players that can change games.”

What may also help is a little trip Wanderers took to Saudi Arabia in 2014.

The experience of Riyadh will help Popovic in particular, but also his trusty lieutentan Nikolai Topor-Stanley, striker Brendon Santalab and utility Shannon Cole.

It was a scorching atmosphere in Saudi Arabia during that momentous second-leg ACL final win over Al Hilal. At the King Fahd, they held on to a 0-0 after edging it 1-0 in Parramatta.

With one of the most hostile crowds one can imagine, Wanderers believed in Popa’s continental dream and somehow held on (in large part due to Covic and in particular one world-class save to deny the marauding blue shirts).

The belief never wavered though they did ride their luck that day.

“I think that Riyadh experience – especially for the boys that were there – everything was against us,” recalls Covic.

“You know that regardless if things aren’t going your way away from home you stick together and with that, anything’s possible.

“Popa will really instil that to them that they’ve proven themselves before. And look, three grand finals in four seasons.

“In such a short amount of time, they’re a team that’s learnt a lot. And they’ll but up for it against a very good side on Sunday.”

So, who’ll win on Sunday in the City of Churches? Covic, like most, finds it hard to pick.

“It’s so hard to say. Obviously being with the Wanderers for so long, failing twice at the last hurdle but having so much success, I’d love the boys to do it

“It’d be horrible to go three without winning. But you have to give Adelaide credit. They are phenomenal and look hard to beat.

“The teams match up well, they are similar and yet they are different. Wanderers may be more of a pressing team whereas Adelaide may be build a little more. Slightly different styles but similar philosophy.

“If the grand final was in Sydney I’d say the Wanderers.

“Being in Adelaide it throws a spanner in the works but I’ll still go with Wanderers.”


Football Federation Australia

Calmness key to incredible comeback: Tony Popovic

Tony Popovic praised his side’s ability to stay calm and composed during Brisbane Roar’s early onslaught before Western Sydney Wanderers’ incredible extra-time Hyundai A-League semi-final win on Sunday night.

Wanderers’ season looked over and they appeared headed for a heavy defeat as they found themselves 3-0 down inside 23 minutes at Pirtek Stadium.

But buoyed on by more than 20,000 fans and inspired by hat-trick hero Romeo Castelen, the Wanderers prevailed 5-4 over Roar after 120 minutes – it was one of the greatest Hyundai A-League games ever.


“We started so brightly and before you know it we were down 3-0. For us on the side-line it was about ‘let’s not throw it away’ and hope that the players can keep a clear, calm mind and work their way back into the match,” Popovic told reporters afterwards.

“Had we conceded a fourth by trying to force things I’m sure it would have been game over. It was crucial to stay calm.

“Once we got that first one you could see that the belief grew within the group and also in the stands. Slowly but surely we got back on top.

“We’ve had some memorable nights here,” he added.

“Our crowd was magnificent again, they helped us get back into the game, they helped us at the end to close it out.

“It was a special night off the field and on the field I’m sure it will go down in the history books …”

While substitute Dario Vidosic scored the decisive goal in the first period of extra-time, there’s no doubt Castelen was the man-of-the match.

He started the comeback with a cracking free-kick midway through the first half, before adding two more after the break to edge the home side in front for the first time.

“He was outstanding and he’s been very good for us [all season],” Popovic said of the Dutchman.

“I think this last six weeks he’s really stepped it up, physically he’s on top of his game and he was a constant threat.

“Even in extra-time he was causing them problems…I’m delighted for him of course.”

The Wanderers now move into next Sunday’s decider against Adelaide United at what will be a jam-packed Adelaide Oval.

This will be the club’s third decider in four seasons, although both other grand finals have ended in defeat.

With so many new faces in the squad, Popovic insists this one isn’t about redemption but hopes the club can finally land the one piece of silverware that’s so far eluded them.

“I’m proud of everyone at the club, not just the team but I think this football club is special,” he said.

“I’m honoured to be the head coach. Just to take our team to another final, take our fans who I’m sure will go in huge numbers and I’m sure they will make a lot of noise next week to try and help us get that one thing that’s eluding us.

“We’ve got a few survivors from season one here but we need this group to make history in their own right and we have a chance for that next week.

“It will be a special week. I want everyone to enjoy it at our football club but Sunday there is one job to do and that’s to win.”

Football Federation Australia

Uruguay victory comes back to life in ‘November 16’

Former Socceroos striker John Aloisi celebrates converting the decisive penalty against Uruguay.

Australia’s greatest sporting night is celebrated in a new film, ‘November 16’, an hour-long feature on the famous Socceroo victory over Uruguay a decade ago.

‘November 16′ is a film by Ben Coonan, FFA’s videographer since 2012, in collaboration with Fox Sports presenter Richard Bayliss and has been produced with the support of Football Federation Australia (FFA) and broadcast partners Fox Sports and SBS.

The film will have its premiere at the Football Film Festival in Melbourne on 8 November, and will be broadcast on Fox Sports (16 November) and SBS (18 November).

The Socceroos’ penalty shoot out triumph over Uruguay at ANZ Stadium has become sporting folklore in Australia and ‘November 16’ tells the stories behind the events that have been immortalised since.

FFA CEO David Gallop said he’s delighted to see a growing archive of historical works on Australian football.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen a number of books published on the history of the game and these historical works are hugely important,” said Gallop.

“FFA has backed this film by Ben Coonan and Richard Bayliss because the game’s rich history is worth preserving and celebrating. I commend them on the film and I’m sure it will garner a big audience.”

The film features many of the players that played a key role on the night, alongside coach Guus Hiddink and his then assistant Graham Arnold.

Other football royalty to appear throughout the film include Socceroo greats Adrian Alston, Ray Baartz, Alan Davidson, John Kosmina, Alex Tobin, Paul Wade and Charlie Yankos, as well as exclusive interviews with 2005 Uruguayan protagonists Alvaro Recoba and Fabian Carini.

The film features seldom, or, never-before seen content from the night in question, as well as rare archive footage dating back to Australia’s first successful FIFA World Cup qualification in 1973.

‘November 16’ will premiere on the closing day of the inaugural Football Film Festival at Melbourne’s Kino Cinemas this Sunday, 8 November at 4pm. Click here for details.

Thereafter, ‘November 16’ will be broadcast on Fox Sports on the anniversary evening at 9pm, followed by broadcast on SBS on November 18 at 11pm.

November 16 Cast (alphabetical order)

John Aloisi, Adrian Alston, Graham Arnold, Ray Baartz, Mark Bresciano, Tim Cahill, Fabian Carini, Scott Chipperfield, Mike Cockerill, Jason Culina, Alan Davidson, Brett Emerton, Vince Grella, Andy Harper, Guus Hiddink, Simon Hill, Zeljko Kalac, John Kosmina, Paul Okon, Tony Popovic, Alvaro Recoba, Mark Schwarzer, Josip Skoko, Alen Stajcic, Alex Tobin, Tony Vidmar, Paul Wade and Charlie Yankos.

Broadcast Details

Football Film Festival

8 November – 4pm

Kino Cinemas, Melbourne

Fox Sports

16 November – 9pm


18 November – 11pm

Football Federation Australia

Golgol Mebrahtu of the Wanderers shakes hands with Wanderers coach Tony Popovic after being replaced in the second half

Golgol Mebrahtu of the Wanderers shakes hands with Wanderers coach Tony Popovic after being replaced in the second half.

Western Sydney Wanderers’ hero GolGol Mebrahtu deflected praise after his stunning performance and winning goal in their Westfield FFA Cup triumph over Brisbane Roar on Tuesday night.

After over a year out with a terrible knee injury, the striker was dangerous all night for the Red and Black popping up late to snatch a winner over Brisbane Roar.

It was a fairytale return for Mebrahtu in an intense FFA Cup clash at Pepper Stadium.


“Look, at the end of the day football’s a team sport,” the 24-year-old forward told Fox Sports deflecting praise away from him.

“Credit to Brisbane they gave us a good fight but our boys dug deep and held on and we’re just really happy to finish with a win.

“We want to achieve a title but from a personal goal it’s always nice and it is the icing on the cake.

Coach Tony Popovic said he was delighted for Mebrahtu who he said had come through a very tough rehab over the last year.

“He’s had a tough year, he’s worked extremely hard. It’s a lonely time when you do an ACL [knee injury] to come back and score a goal… it’s the first time he’s played 70 odd minutes in a couple of years.

“He’ll be sore for a good week I’m sure!”.


The Wanderers coach added: “It’s a fantastic Cup competition but last year we went out in the first round  so we’re delighted.

“We’ve only been going for a short period so I’m sure the players will be very tired but it’s great for our fans to have something to celebrate.”

The 1-0 win has Wanderers now eying a Round of 16 clash.

“They’re enjoying their football and this is a little bit of a reward for the players. But our goal ultimately is to be prepared for October 8 [and the A-League round one],” said Popovic.

Football Federation Australia

Tony Popovic says the Western Sydney Wanderers are looking for a vastly improved FFA Cup campaign in 2015.

Tony Popovic says the Wanderers are looking for a vastly improved FFA Cup campaign in 2015.

A makeshift Western Sydney Wanderers, without marquee Federico Piovaccari, will be charged with making up for the disappointment of last year’s surprise Westfield FFA Cup exit when they host Brisbane Roar on Tuesday night.

Four months after reaching their second successive A-League grand final, Tony Popovic’s men were dumped out of the inaugural national knockout competition at the hands of Adelaide City, the only top-flight team to fall victim to lower-league opposition in the 2014 round of 32.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Popovic acknowledged that being victims of the tournament’s first significant giant-killing was motivation to do better 12 months later.


“We were disappointed last year,” he said.

“We certainly didn’t go to Adelaide believing it would be easy. We weren’t good enough on the day and Adelaide went through, deservedly so.

“But we get another chance a year later. The competition is obviously growing. Everybody’s embraced the Cup. It’s a fantastic initiative from the FFA. And we’d love to be like [holders] Adelaide and get some more silverware.

“To do that you have to get through a tough first round against Brisbane to have a chance. We’re looking forward to the game, to see where we’re at.”


The Wanderers are in the early stages of their preparations for the new A-League campaign, which is still two months away.

There have been plenty of changes to the make-up of the team, meaning there’s sure to be some unfamiliar faces on show in Parramatta.

“We’ll have a squad ready,” Popovic said.

“This is our fourth week of pre-season. We’ll be ready for October, where we want to be. But we’re … good enough to put on a good performance tomorrow and get through.”

The game against Brisbane will arrive too soon for Italian marquee striker Federico Piovaccari, while Dimas Delgado, Andreu Guerao and Alberto Aguilar, whose signing was announced on Sunday, will all require time to adjust to life in Australia.

“It’s always difficult to say how long it’ll take,” Popovic said.

“Individuals take time. The new boys that have come in, some settle in quickly, some need more time due to fitness or a change in culture for our foreigners.”

Football Federation Australia

Ange Postecoglou and Tony Popovic in world magazine’s top 50 managers

Ange Postecoglou wishes Tony Popovic good luck during the Wanderers 2014 ACL campaign.

Ange Postecoglou and Tony Popovic have been recognised by global magazine FourFourTwo as two of the top 50 managers in world football.
In a huge nod to the talent of both coaches, Postecoglou came in at number 39 on the list, with Western Sydney Wanderers FC mentor Popovic at 45.

At number 39, Socceroo boss Postecoglou was voted in just behind the likes of Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez who was named at 36 on the list.

Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini was one spot higher at 35, with World Cup-winning Spain coach Vincente del Bosque at 32.

The magazine took into account not only recent achievements but right throughout their managerial career, as well as their man-management skills, tactical nous and ability to lead.

So far the names from 50 to 30 have been revealed, with the rest of the list to be confirmed in coming days.

Postecoglou has enjoyed great success since  taking over the Socceroos in late 2013.

His regeneration and reshaping of the squad has had outstanding results, culminating in Australia’s stunning Asian Cup success in January.

Popovic has been superb as boss of the Wanderers, guiding the club to become the best in Asia after they won the AFC Champions League title at the first attempt in 2014.

Football Federation Australia

Tony Popovic extends deal to 2018

Popovic proud after ACL triumph

Western Sydney Wanderers have announced the contract extension of foundation Coach Tony Popovic until the end of the 2017/18 season.

Following an undeniably impressive start to his coaching career at the Wanderers, winning the Hyundai A-League Premiers’ Plate in the club’s debut season, Popovic went on to lead his team to successive A-League Grand Finals and on 1 November 2014 made history winning the AFC Champions League.

Western Sydney to the core, the Socceroo great has been the key to the Wanderers successes to date and will drive the club forward well into the decade.

Wanderers Chairman Paul Lederer believes Popovic is not just the right man for the job, but the only man for the job.

“This club is built for success, our region demands it and our fans deserve it,” said Lederer.

“Tony Popovic has already brought this club a great deal of success, but we want more, a lot more. He makes no secret of his demands on his team and his incredibly hardworking football staff but these are no more than the demands he makes on himself.

“Make no mistake. Tony Popovic is the only man for the job, he is an ideal fit for our culture and suits the ambitious plans we have for this club. Securing Tony is a huge step in the right direction to bringing more success and greater pride to the Wanderers and to Western Sydney.”

Having assembled the inaugural Wanderers squad with Popovic from a kitchen table in his Western Sydney home, Wanderers CEO John Tsatsimas early on knew that something special was beginning.

“From my first conversation with Tony I knew that the Wanderers had found something special,” said Tsatsimas.

“Tony is steadfast, determined, meticulous in detail and an intelligent coach whose entire focus is on the success of this football club.

“He is across every element of the club and has a passion for this team that anyone who knows him well realises is going to generate more success for the Wanderers in the coming three years.”

The current AFC Coach of the Year praised his players, support staff and the club for their achievements but promised more to come.

“I am immensely proud of the achievements of this team at our club to date but have no interest in resting with past glories,” said Popovic.

“Work for next season has already begun and our aim is to get back to the top where we belong.

“This season we had some adversity and that can destroy you or make you stronger – everyone will see a stronger Wanderers next season.”

With a full off-season to recruit and prepare for the Hyundai A-League 2015/16 season the future looks bright for the Wanderers to continue on their course to becoming a globally recognised and respected football club – the pride of Western Sydney.

If you want to see the Wanderers first hand next season make sure you update your details by clicking here to ensure you receive the most up-to-date membership and renewals information.

Football Federation Australia

Tony Popovic set for contract extension with Western Sydney Wanderers

May 7, 2015 – 8:22PM

Dominic Bossi

Asian Champions League winning coach Tony Popovic will likely remain at Western Sydney Wanderers next season and beyond and may sign a contract extension as early as Friday.

The Wanderers appear to have won the battle to retain the services of their foundation coach, who was linked with moves to Asia and Europe in recent months but is understood to have agreed to terms for a new deal.

Despite a year remaining on his existing deal, the Wanderers made an early move to ensure Popovic’s future remains in Parramatta amid heavy interest from Croatian giants Hajduk Split, as well as past offers from clubs in China, Korea and England.

Wanted man: Wanderers coach Tony Popovcic.
Wanted man: Wanderers coach Tony Popovic. Photo: Getty Images

The Wanderers are understood to have agreed to personal terms with Popovic, who will be present with chairman Paul Lederer and chief executive John Tsatsimas in a “major” announcement on the future of the club on Friday.

A deal will be a show of faith in the coach after the Wanderers slumped to a ninth-place finish in the A-League just six months after being crowned Asian champions.

Nevertheless, Popovic is a coach in demand and has been linked with a move to Hajduk since reports surfaced in Croatia media last February. Hajduk never submitted a formal offer to the Wanderers but Popovic was understood to have been favoured for the job because of his success as a young coach and ancestral ties to the region of Dalmatia.

Popovic reportedly turned down an offer to coach English Premier League club Crystal Palace earlier this season after the club did not guarantee autonomy over the football department.

After guiding the Wanderers to the Asian Champions League title – a first for an Australian club – he also had offers to coach in the K-League and for the Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F.



The Canberra Times