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Wanderers will become top dogs, but mischief makers must pull their heads in

The RBB has been handed an ultimatum from Wanderers management. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Expert
10th February, 2016
84
1409 Reads

Much of what went on in the terraces at Etihad Stadium was about flexing some muscle to send a message about who is the biggest club in the land. Those Wanderers fans who took it too far have since received an unequivocal message to pull their heads in.

“We’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over”, read a banner unfurled by some in the travelling army of over 1000.

BREAKING: Wanderers fined $50,000 and docked three competition points

Supported by a crescendo of detonators and a flurry of the flares, it was all about sending a message to the nearly 30,000 Melbourne Victory members that the Red and Black Bloc, or RBB, was here become top dog.

As the Wanderers fans constantly remind us during games, mocking a key Victory chant, “Melbourne boys are still number two”.

More football:
» FFA must dock the Wanderers competition points
» FFA talking tough could be rough for Wanderers
» Fan issues escalate: FFA charge Wanderers with bringing game into disrepute
» It’s time for A-League supporters to unite against flares
» A-League fans have shot themselves in the foot

Make no mistake, the Wanderers might be the new kids on the block, but they are gunning to be the top dog in the A-League.

The Victory has set the benchmark by getting its house in order in the boardroom, on the pitch and in the stands in recent years.

Indeed, the fact it was the Victory that went into bat and mounted a defence of the game in the wake of the publishing of a banned list, when the FFA had up until then failed to do so, was lost on Saturday night among the cloud of colour created by the flares.

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But the club wasn’t always this in synch.

Only the arrival of Anthony di Pietro as chair and the subsequent appointments of hometown favourites Ange Postecoglou, then Kevin Muscat, as managers, has led to consistent success both on and off the field.

Ernie Merrick might have brought some success on the pitch, but for large parts of its early existence, the Victory had regular teething problems to deal with, particularly in the terraces.

Melbourne’s establishment didn’t like its bravado – or what was perceived as its hostility – in the early days, and many of the problems the RBB now face on away days were once those of the Northern Terrace.

But through strong messaging from the community and working with the club and within, the Victory’s active army were able to weed out much of the trouble.

The Wanderers, too, have worked tirelessly with the RBB over the past couple of years to weed out the hostile troublemakers at Parramatta.

Go to any Wanderland fixture, as I do with a couple of families just about every fortnight, and you will hardly see a flare. Yes, the atmosphere and noise tends to ramp up when Sydney FC and the Victory venture out west, but flares are no longer part of the every matchday experience.

There, through heavy policing and sanctions, and much discussion over the past two years, any mischief-makers appear to have been sent packing.

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On the road though, and particularly at the SFS and in Melbourne, is where the trouble tends to go.

Those who see themselves as hardcore football fans see ‘away days’ as the opportunity to send a message to the hosts about supremacy.

Going away and dominating the terraces is their success. With more and more images being depicted across the internet, for the world to see, there is much street cred to be gained by dominating away.

For some, being part of that image of dominance in the terraces is the motivation; it’s insular and shortsighted, and doesn’t take into account the broader damage to a game trying to build its influences.

As a club the Wanderers have been on an often out-of-control upward trajectory for its three and half years. Go to any shopping mall in the west on a weekend and you’ll see plenty of Wanderers merchandise floating around, the shirts worn with the pride that comes with representing a part of Australia that is often misrepresented in the media.

Most of these shirts, drink bottles and lunch boxes belong to kids. It’s a phenomenon.

Families plan their weekends around a Wanderers game. Even if you are not a member, you’re likely to have been invited to games by members, and have all the gear.

This is a club representing and bringing life to the western suburbs of Sydney.

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Truth is, the only thing holding it back from being the top dog, or being closer to the Victory in terms of membership numbers, is the size of Parramatta Stadium.

But this is set to change over the next few years as Wanderland gets a $300 million upgrade.

Once the new stadium is built and the club can aim for between 30,000 and 35,000 each fortnight, they will indeed be pushing the Victory for number one in terms of members and average gate.

Yet there remains the odd goose in the terraces who hasn’t the foresight to see this, nor the patience to let nature take its course.

If the message sent to them this week doesn’t get through, then it will have to be law enforcement that sorts it out, and there will be less sympathy than in the past from those within football if that happens.