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The Sky’s finally clearing up at Sydney FC

4530193790_e1a894ba6e_oIt’s been a hectic month at the A-League’s glamour club. And for the first time in a long time, it’s for all the right reasons. In a year’s time, the club may look back to May 2014 as the month they started getting their act together.

Following another disappointing season in which the Sky Blues finished 5th and were knocked out of the finals in the first week, swift, sweeping changes were needed to be made by the board in order to appease an increasingly disgruntled fanbase.

Club legends Terry McFlynn and Alessandro Del Piero’s announcements that they were leaving at the conclusion of the season added to the subdued and gloomy atmosphere at the club, which was only slightly uplifted by the news that the much-maligned Frank Farina would be relieved of his duties as coach.

The month of May began with the announcement that former Central Coast Mariners and Socceroos coach Graham Arnold would be taking the reins of the league’s most high-profile club. While many fans were optimistically hoping that Del Piero would come back to the club to manage them, he was never really a realistic option given he wanted to play on for one more season elsewhere.

The 50-year old Arnold was a safe bet and a smart choice by the Sydney board. Despite his uninspiring two month stint as coach of Japanese top flight outfit Vegalta Sendai, in which a winless six game start led to his dismissal, his standing in the Australian league remains undiminished. As coach of the Mariners, he led them to a minor premiership and an A-League championship, as well as winning A-League manager of the year in his first season. His domestic pedigree means he is well-respected and always sought after, which was evident by the fact Sydney had to beat the Newcastle Jets to his signature.

A week after his appointment, the ‘Arnold effect’ was in full-swing already, as he convinced one the league’s brightest young talents, Bernie Ibini, to join the club, ahead of competition from his former club the Mariners, and his hometown club of Western Sydney. The deal represented something of a small coup for Sydney, and Ibini was quick to point out that Arnold’s appointment greatly influenced his decision to make the switch to Sydney.

Arnold is clearly trying to build a culture similar to what he had at the Mariners, and it is no surprise that he is shaking up the back-room staff as well. Andrew Clark has been drafted in as the new strength and conditioning coach, replacing the long serving Anthony Crea. Clark is highly regarded in the fitness industry and of course worked with Arnold at both the Mariners and Vegalta Sendai. He will no doubt bring a fresh, new approach to a side that at times looked like it was running out of breath in the latter stages of games.

Another coup was publicised on Sunday, and had many Sydney fans licking their lips in anticipation. The league’s second all-time leading goalscorer Shane Smeltz announced that he had signed a one year deal with the Sky Blues, after being granted a release from the final year of his contract at Perth Glory. Although the 32-year old endured an injury riddled campaign last time out with the Glory, there is no doubting his experience and the top-level quality he will bring to an at-times stagnant Sydney attack. The deal represents another positive move by the club, and another step in getting the fans back on their side.

This followed the news that Serbian midfielder Milos Dimitrijevic and second choice goalkeeper Ivan Necevski had extended their deals with the club for another season. Necevski is considered as one of the competition’s best second choice keepers, and is regarded as solid replacement if incumbent Vedran Janjetovic has to drop out of the team. Dimitrijevic impressed for the side after joining mid-season, bringing some composure and experience to the team when he was fit.

Things are certainly on the up now for Sky Blues’ fans. Positive changes are being made to a club that had grown stagnant for a few years, and the shakeup is bringing forward exciting times for the Sydney fans.

If it couldn’t get any better for Sydney fans this month, the club announced last week that they had begun negotiations to bring back cult favourite Alex Brosque, from UAE side Al Ain, as their Australian marquee, in a move that would be hugely popular with the clubs supporter base, and further bolster their strike power.

Coupled with the names getting mentioned in the paper as possible options for the vacant international marquee slot, there are indeed exciting times ahead. Ex-Chelsea star Didier Drogba has emerged at the forefront of a list that has so far included household names like Diego Forlan, Rio Ferdinand and Nicolas Anelka.

What is certain is that Sydney are heading in the right direction in order to rectify their errors of the past few years, and return this football club to pinnacle of Australian football. The doom and gloom of last season is quickly vanishing, and is being replaced by a cautious sense of optimism and buoyancy. The sky is undeniably clearing up over the glamour club, and many fans can expect to see a completely different outfit take to the field next season.

Photo Credit: Éamonn Lawlor

About the author

avatarMarco is an avid A-League fan, and a contributor to Ultimate A-League.

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  • http://www.coloursandlight.com Alex Wain

    Sydney FC actually finished 5th (not 6th as this article incorrectly states), also the club has fighter average attendances than WSW, is by far the most watch team in the A-League for TV viewership and when SFC have players out injured, everyone is up I arms – when WSW do, they’re “rotating players”. When people talk about how bad SFC have been this season, they finished above Adelaide – a team everyone was raving about and whose coach just got picked for the All-Stars team.