Derby day to highlight the season of Sydney

Joe Gorman Columnist

By Joe Gorman, Joe Gorman is a Roar Expert

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    Western Sydney Wanderers fans represent one half of the derby magic. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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    This weekend the third edition of the Sydney derby will be played in front of a full house at Parramatta Stadium. With Western Sydney looking to win the minor premiership and Sydney FC eying off a finals spot, there is plenty to play for.

    Aside from the grand final, the derby is shaping up as the game of the season. It’s appropriate that it will involve both Sydney clubs.

    For decades there has been a simmering frustration in other states about the media’s so-called obsession with Sydney. In Melbourne especially, fans have alleged that the press gallery are biased towards Sydney clubs to the detriment of a rich football culture in Victoria.

    It’s a fair point. However, in the days of the NSL, Sydney was the engine that drove football, both on and off the field. The game’s administration was centred around the Harbour City, and Sydney clubs dominated on the field.

    In the A-League, however, it has been hard to make the same case. One-team, one-city meant that the success of Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar took much of the attention away from Sydney FC, who struggled to truly cement their identity due to constant off-field turmoil.

    The fact that Melbourne Heart came into the competition before a second Sydney side only reinforced the importance of Melbourne to the overall success of the A-League. This season, however, the city of Sydney has well and truly risen to the challenge. Indeed, both Sydney clubs have been integral to the current buzz surrounding the competition.

    The introduction and instant success of the Wanderers has been just one part of this turnaround. However, it is important to remember that before the Wanderers went on their unprecedented winning streak, it was Sydney FC’s audacious marquee signing that really put the spotlight on the A-League.

    Soon after, Newcastle and Western Sydney scrambled for their own marquee signings to match the benchmark set by Sydney FC. The Del Piero domino effect cut Lyall Gorman’s “no-marquee player” strategy to ribbons. He quickly went from talking down the marquee concept to having discussions with Michael Ballack and Shinji Ono.

    Indeed, both Ono and Emile Heskey admitted that their interest in coming to the A-League was piqued by Del Piero’s presence. Sydney FC’s two million dollar gamble changed the nature of the league in an instant.

    And despite the Sky Blues inconsistent form, Season Eight will likely be remembered as the season of Sydney. Can you imagine this A-League season without Del Piero? Or worse still, if the Wanderers had been just average?

    This is not to take anything away from Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Wellington, Central Coast and Newcastle. Indeed, one-team one-city and strong regional centres mean that these clubs are, and always will be, an integral part of the football family.

    However, for football to truly take off, the two major cities are crucial. You get the sense that the A-League now has the proper foundations to continue it’s rise. Further expansion is now a case of when, rather than if.

    In the run up to Saturday, these moments will only add to the drama of the occasion. For the fans of the Wanderers, there will be nothing sweeter than lifting the Premier’s Plate in front of their cross-town opponents. It may be just the sort of moment that turns a derby into a heated rivalry.

    It’s been a dream season for football fans right around the country. As the nation’s attention turns to Parramatta Stadium, it’s a good time to pay tribute to the active supporter groups the RBB and The Cove, and to the efforts of Lyall Gorman and Tony Pignata.

    Long may it continue!

    Joe Gorman
    Joe Gorman

    Joe Gorman is a football journalist with a particular interest in sports history. After completing his thesis on football in Australia, Joe started with The Roar in October 2012. He tweets from @JoeGorman_89.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • March 20th 2013 @ 4:25pm
      pete4 said | March 20th 2013 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

      Absolutely phenomenal to think WSW are in touching distance of the Premiership. Wooden spoon favorites at the season could take it in front of a rocking Parra stadium on Saturday night

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2013 @ 11:17am
      dinoweb said | March 21st 2013 @ 11:17am | ! Report

      “in the days of the NSL, Sydney was the engine that drove football, both on and off the field. The game’s administration was centred around the Harbour City, and Sydney clubs dominated on the field.” I might like to disagree with this statement.

      While it is true that Sydney teams dominatd the first half of the NSL winning 10 of 14 titles, they managed only one in the next 14 from 1991 to 2004.

      It has also always been my belef that it was the vested interests of the Sydney Cub dominated former adminstration that held back the growth of the sport in Austraila for so long

      Yes they are to be congratulated for having the vision to create the NSL in the first place, but when a man like Frank Lowy walked away from the sport beasue of the club politics pesent at the highest levels, you knew something was wrong.

      Further, despite the success of the Wanderers this year and the ADP effect, I will always contend that it was the success of Brisbane Roar over the past two seasons that arrested the slide of the A-League. It really caught the national attention, and changed the way football is played in this country, hopefully forever. Without their succes, I doubt this season would have been anything like as successful as it has.

      While ADP and Wanderers may have increased “the Buzz” in Sydney, there was a fair bit of Buzz in the preceeding two years despite SFC finishing 9th and 5th in those two years.

      I beleive the idea that the sport must be successull in Sydney and Melbourne is antiquated and in serious need of review.

      The true succees of the A-League is that it is a national success, and not one just confined to our two largest cities.

      • March 21st 2013 @ 11:22am
        Ian said | March 21st 2013 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        give yourself a pat on the back dinoweb.

      • March 21st 2013 @ 2:11pm
        Towser said | March 21st 2013 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

        “I beleive the idea that the sport must be successull in Sydney and Melbourne is antiquated and in serious need of review.”

        You may believe that dinoweb ,but it will never be true. Big cities drive football throughout the world.
        Sure the Roar made the A-League sit up take notice of the football being played,but Brisbane cannot drive the A-League onwards & upwards only Sydney & Melbourne can.
        Like asking a tow boat to tug an ocean liner around the world,much easier the other way round.

    • March 21st 2013 @ 1:33pm
      Matthew Skellett said | March 21st 2013 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

      My tips for expansion clubs would be Tasmania Canberra Wollongong Darwin and a revived North Queensland model:-)

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2013 @ 12:52am
        Cameron Kellett said | March 22nd 2013 @ 12:52am | ! Report

        Darwin? Very aspirational Matthew Skellett.

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