Top 10 reasons to watch the 2012/13 A-League (Part 3)
Three – Western Sydney Wanderers.
Probably the most anticipated expansion club in the A-League’s short history, Western Sydney Wanderers’ inclusion into the A-League was viewed as so vital to the competition by Football Federation Australia that a decision was made for the club to be set up and funded, at least initially, by the governing body.
Western Sydney has fast become Australia’s most sought after sporting area. With an expanding population and a rich sporting history across many codes, it has in recent years become somewhat of a battle ground for the hearts and minds of the western Sydney sporting public. Traditionally a football and Rugby League stronghold, the area has become even further crowded with the AFL’s incursion into the region with the introduction of the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
In 2009, Football Federation Australia awarded Sydney Rovers FC entry into the A-League, however the bid faltered after failure to secure funding meant that football fans in the west of Sydney would have to wait at least a few more years for an A-League team.
In April 2012, just six months before the start of the 2012 /13 A-League season, Football Federation Australia CEO Ben Buckley announced western Sydney would participate in the upcoming A-League season. With the demise of Gold Coast United, the competition was left with only nine teams and a decision was made at FFA headquarters that the timing for the A-League’s long awaited foray into the region was never going to be better.
Former Socceroo Tony Popovic was appointed as the Wanderers inaugural coach and charged with the task of building a squad from scratch. In a short period of time, Popovic has managed to sign 19 players, the majority of which have extensive A-League experience, with the suggestion two more signings are imminent to round out the squad.
The success of the Wanderers will not only be measured on the ground, but also how they manage to connect with the large local football community. Western Sydney Wanderers is a football club that has been built for those who have felt disconnected from the A-League in an area where football runs deep.
Two – Marquees.
The arrival of Alessandro Del Piero to the A-League has grabbed headlines around the football globe. Sydney FC’s capture of the Italian superstar on a two-year marquee deal saw the club receive top billing from traditionally football shy media outlets, and sparked interest in the league for many who had previously ignored its many advances. Del Piero was to many the archetypical player the marquee system was originally designed to capture. Newcastle Jets soon followed suit with the announcement of former England international Emile Heskey on a one-year deal.
Whilst Del Piero and Heskey may be considered the headline acts, marquee players such as Brisbane’s Thomas Broich and Perth Glory’s Shane Smeltz still have the power to bring many A-League fans to their feet.
Melbourne Victory’s signing of Argentine Marcos Flores from Chinese Super League club Henan Jianya will see the attacking midfielder return to Australia for his second stint in the A-League. Flores lit up the league during his time at Adelaide United and was voted the A-League’s player of the year for the 2010/11 season. His arrival in the Victorian capital is sure to have Victory supporters excited by the prospect of his partnership with fellow marquee Archie Thompson.
Socceroo Dario Vidosic returned to the A-League at the start of 2011/12 season, signing with Adelaide United having spent close to four years plying his trade in Germany. The versatile midfielder’s speed and agility has seen him become an integral part of the Reds attack, playing 25 games and scoring 5 goals. Now settled at Adelaide after off-season speculation he would be joining his father at Brisbane Roar, Vidosic is set to keep defenders around the A-League on their toes in season eight.
One – Derbies.
Season eight of the Hyundai A-League is set to kick off with seventh edition of the Melbourne Derby. In what has quickly become one of the leagues most anticipated matches, round one of the 2012/13 season will see Melbourne Victory take on the Melbourne Heart at Etihad Stadium. Melbourne Heart entered the A-League in 2010 and the rivalry between the two clubs ignited soon after. The first Melbourne Derby saw the Heart run out 2-1 victors at AAMI Park, with former Melbourne Victory player Aziz Behich receiving a red card for the Melbourne Heart to add even more spice to the encounter.
A total of 23 yellow cards were handed out in the first three derbies between the two clubs, with Kevin Muscat’s red card for a horror tackle on young Heart midfielder Adrian Zahra in their final clash of the season ensuring that future Melbourne Derbies would be the first fixture circled each year by both sets of fans.
Both clubs also start the season with new coaches. Melbourne Heart has appointed former Socceroo John Aloisi, with Melbourne Victory snaring Ange Postecoglou from reigning champions Brisbane Roar.
The highly anticipated inaugural Sydney Derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers takes place in round three at Parramatta Stadium. Early ticket sales are already indicating that the match could be close to a sell out, with both sets of supporters eager to witness a piece of A-League history.
With the Wanderers keen to gain traction in the Sydney football market, and Sydney FC desperate not to concede any, both clubs will be out to make their mark in the first derby.