Sport

Popovic proves coaching prowess with Wanderers success

Coach Tony Popovic of the Wanderers talks to his team during the round nine A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and the Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Coach Tony Popovic of the Wanderers talks to his team during the round nine A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and the Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

AS A player, Tony Popovic was one of those who just got the job done with no fuss and little fanfare.

You could rely on him week in week out to put in a solid performance, and thankfully for Western Sydney Wanderers he seems to have carried that into his coaching career.

I missed his team's 6-1 win over high-flying Adelaide United, so when I saw the result I have to say I was gobsmacked.

The Wanderers have already upset a few teams this season but I did not expect John Kosmina's side to go the same way, and certainly not by this emphatic scoreline.

By all accounts the Reds were second best all over the pitch and the ever-honest Kosmina was succinct in his appraisal of events at Parramatta Stadium.

"To sum it up, they bashed us up," Kosmina said.

"We're not a team of fighters. It's not to say we can't when we need to, but you actually have to be in a few fights before you know how to stand up for yourself.

"It will wake a few people up and make them realise that success doesn't come so easy.

"You need to roll your sleeves up a bit and get your hands dirty."

Even though they are the new kids on the A-League block, that's exactly what Popovic has instilled in his team this season.

Popovic deserves a lot of credit for what he has already achieved in western Sydney.

The former Socceroo was on a hiding to nothing when he took the job.

He was not expected to get too many positive results, but at the same time the eyes of the Australian football world were focused on him and his team.

When the new franchise was announced in April this year it was all bells and whistles.

Football Federation Australia rolled out the red carpet and even Prime Minister Julia Gillard was there to welcome the new team into the A-League fold.

The FFA would have been sweating on the results of the new boys as the season got under way and when Popovic's side was struggling for goals in the early games and sitting near the bottom of the ladder, the powers-that-be could have been forgiven for wondering if they had done the right thing.

North Queensland and Gold Coast had been new clubs introduced to the A-League in the previous couple of years and both had fallen by the wayside.

So the happiest people last Friday night, other than the Western Sydney fans - known as the Red Bloc - and Popovic and his players, would have been the FFA, and in particular, Frank Lowy, a long-time advocate for football in the western Sydney heartland.

Lowy would likely have had a smile (at least inwardly) from ear to ear after the Wanderers' amazing result and Popovic and Co would be delighted to be sitting in third spot halfway through the season.

Whatever happens now is all a bonus for the new boys.

And who knows, maybe the former Socceroo can just keep his team scoring goals and winning games to give itself a shot at the A-League title.

It is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility, especially with Mark Bridge finally showing what a decent goalscorer he is.

What a shot in the arm that would be for A-League bosses.

Topics:  adelaide united fc, a-league, football, soccer, tony popovic, western sydney wanderers



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