In announcing the foundations of Western Sydney Wanderers FC, including kit colours, logo (red, black and white), home ground (Parramatta Stadium) and foundation players, the FFA are no doubt looking to connect football’s history and stakeholders with the game’s future.
It is a sound strategy, and many would say it’s not before time that the governing body has tipped its hat to the game’s history and stakeholders.
Now comes the hard bit, ensuring the Western Sydney Wanderers FC, named after the first team formed in Australia in 1880, are ready for action in 103 days, both on and off the pitch.
That day, Saturday, October 6, is the day the Wanderers take on the Central Coast Mariners in their inaugural game.
It will be played out of Parramatta Stadium, only a few kilometres down the road from the King’s School that played host to the Wanderers first game, inspiring the club’s name.
While there are many hoping for a dedicated football home ground, with the Fairfield Showground mooted as one potential site, for now it’s a base close to Sydney’s centre.
It is also one, some may be surprised to learn, with deep historical connections to the game in Australia.
Many fans of former NSL clubs, for example, should be able to draw a connection with a stadium that played host to many a grand final, including two bumper occasions in 1989 and 1989/90, when Marconi and Sydney Olympic took part in riveting contests, where the likes of Zlatko Nestevski, Abbas Saad and Alistair Edwards became heroes for their respective clubs.
I was fortunate enough to be at both those grand finals, and many others at Parramatta, including the final game of the NSL, between Perth Glory and Parramatta Power.
Here’s hoping the FFA have learnt the lessons of the past, both the good and bad.
Certainly, it appears on the right path.
The irony, of course, is that the administration, which tried hard in the early days to distance itself from the history of the game, is now leaning on this very history, hoping it draws more engagement.
While not everyone will be pleased with the choice of name and venue, it’s impossible to accuse the FFA of not listening to the fans, who clamoured for tradition over gimmicks.
At the two fan forums I attended, and across the online forums, including this one, much of the sentiment was for “Wanderers” and “Parramatta”.
A team with a traditional football name, with historical significance, played from a stadium which has had a long association with the round ball code in Australia, there can’t be too many loud complaints.
Another important element in the success or otherwise of the Wanderers is likely to be how well the FFA continues to engage the many stakeholders that make up the game, as I wrote a couple of months ago.
One of its most important is the local associations that traverse the greater western suburbs; Nepean, Granville, Southern Districts, Bankstown, Campbelltown and Blacktown.
To that end, the FFA have honoured these association through the club colours, red, black and white, combining the various colours of these associations. The logo looks fantastic, and the strip is an exciting “hoop” design, appealing to both old and new, to the traditional football followers and some of the “aspirationalists”, a demographic the FFA targeted in the A-League’s inaugural season.
When they come out against the Mariners, the Wanderers will in part take on the look of the famous Brazilian powerhouse Flamengo.
All up, it is a good start by the FFA, especially given the short time frame to pull it all together.
Now comes the toughest part, selling it to the west and getting them to draw some connection to the club over the next three and a half months.
To that end, the club needs to pitch itself as an affordable entertainment option, with membership packages aimed at attracting families and those currently involved in the game.
These fans want a team they can identify with, both in personnel and playing style. The signing of Tony Popovic and Ante Milicic as manager and assistant is certainly a pointer to this.
At the forums the clear message was that the fans want a team comprising many locals, providing a pathway for youngsters across the western suburbs.
To that end, the FFA have drafted in a few players surplus to requirements elsewhere, including Sydney products Tarek Elrich, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi and Aaron Mooy.
While there is likely to be a recycled feel to some of the impending signings, it is the inclusion of young guns like Mooy and Appiah-Kubi that offer real excitement, and if they can ignite their careers here, it will provide a pathway for other aspiring kids.
After all, the Western Sydney Wanderers should not only tip a hat to the game’s past, but provide a window to its future.