Western Sydney Wanderers can excel despite Poppa’s shock exit

Andy Paschalidis Columnist

By Andy Paschalidis, Andy Paschalidis is a Roar Expert

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    I didn’t see that coming. Who did? Only a chosen few knew.

    The exit of Western Sydney Wanderers FC coach Tony Popovic to take up a new challenge with struggling Turkish side Karabukspor comes just seven days before the Wanderers start their sixth A-League campaign with a home match against Perth Glory.

    Social media has gone into a tail spin and quite understandably so.

    I was the host of the Wanderers season launch at Spotless Stadium on Saturday. I had a brief conversation with Popovic as well as CEO John Tsatismas and goalkeeping coach Zelko Kalac. It was actually more about the Annual Croatian Tournament which is held at different locations each year around Australia. Popovic and Kalac have attended many of these tournaments.

    Who would have thought the photo I took of the Coach and CEO would probably be the last one of them together in Wanderers colours.

    There was not even a hint of what would come 24 hours later.

    Hundreds of fans were at Spotless Stadium along with club sponsors as both the A-League and W-league teams were presented with their jerseys.

    It was a typical season launch. Lots of fun, activities, team photos, entertainment as well as a light training session.

    (Photo by Andy Paschalidis)

    Who will replace Popovic is the big question. One would expect one of his closest allies Ante Milicic – the Socceroos Assistant Coach – will come into the mix. Milicic knows the WSW landscape well have previously worked as ‘Poppa’s’ assistant.

    I actually wanted to write a column this week about the season ahead and more specifically the reign of Popovic. Champions of Asia in 2014 and three Grand Finals is a pretty impressive CV. The Wanderers have only missed the finals campaign once.

    Yes losing three Grand Finals has been difficult to take for the loyal fans but the entry of the Wanderers into the elite level of Australian football has been a blessing.

    The Sydney derbies have been eye-catching generating great media interest as well as delivering huge crowds. There could even be a fourth derby this season if both clubs progress to the final of the FFA Cup.

    The Wanderers membership base has escalated from the initial 7,500 in season 2012/13 to over 20,000 last season. The west of Sydney has spoken.

    Popovic and major owner Paul Lederer have worked closely together to ensure off-field success is also matched by what has come out in the middle. I didn’t see Lederer at the season launch.

    One would think Lederer and his CEO John Tsatsimas were the first to know about the Turkish offer. The ex-Socceroo has certainly had overseas interest before especially from ASIA.

    Karabukspor is in 16th position in an 18-team Turkish League with just one win in seven games securing seven points. The city of Karabuk is located in the north of Turkey very close to the Black Sea and to the east of Istanbul which is just over 400 kilometres away.

    One should put this move into perspective. How many Australians have coached a team in a top division in Europe? The challenge and the financial return were too good to refuse.

    In the short term the exit is painful for the fans and I can only wonder what the players think but in this era of professional football players and coaches come and go.

    Yes the timing is poor for obvious reasons but Popovic has always ensured good football people work around him. There’s a strong support base in the WSW dressing room. It’s always been Poppa’s way or the highway.

    The players have to lift, particularly the new signings who have to impress the new coach whoever that will be.

    Is there reason for concern for the loyal fans?

    In the short-term, yes, but over the 2017/18 campaign one expects this new-look squad to excel.

    Who do you sing for?

    Andy Paschalidis
    Andy Paschalidis

    Having worked in the game since 1983, Andy Paschalidis is a true football tragic. He's covered some of the game's biggest events, including multiple World Cups and European Championships. You can catch him on Twitter @AndyPaschalidis.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:02am
      Franko said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      Hope they go with Rudan.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:53am
        Waz said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

        Bahahahahaha …. me too. That’ll write off their season ?

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:03am
      RBBAnonymous said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      Andy most WSW fans like myself knew this day was coming, just not when it was coming. Of course the timing is not the greatest but it could have been even worse. If it was during the season it would have been a nightmare so its not all doom and gloom. The thing is the Wanderers have never been in a stronger position so I have no doubt we will make the right appointment and life will go on. We are still in a pretty good position as a football club.

      What I am concerned about is if Popovic decides to take some staff with him to Turkey, which more than likely he will do. However, everyone needs to make the decision which suits them best. Who would I like to see takeover, that would be the current assistant coach in Adreas Carrasco. With a young family and being firmly settled in Western Sydney I would hope that he would consider the coaching role if he was offered the position. He would make a terrific head coach and would send a great message from the club of promoting within. Another fine appointment would be Ante Milicic who formed a terrific combination with Popovic as an assistant coach. The only problem being his commitment to the National team. If only we had qualified it might have made his decision easier. Of course others in the mix include Gombau and a smattering of overseas coaches we could call upon but I hope we stick with who we know.

      If Popovic manages to entice the backroom staff then it will get interesting. We might need to look for a goalkeeping coach and a couple of assistants. We could always look towards Ante Covic as the GK coach and maybe even Mark Crittenden (Blacktown City) as an assistant. I like the idea of promoting within the Western Sydney family. All would be fantastic appointments. We will have no shortage of terrific candidates.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 2:38pm
        marron said | October 2nd 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

        Kalac and Foxe I would be happy to lose. But it would be a great shame to lose Carrasco.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 7:54pm
          RBBAnonymous said | October 2nd 2017 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

          I know both Kalac and Foxe personally but would happily see them go to seek opportunities in Turkey with Popa. Carrasco on the other hand is worth keeping.

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 11:40am
      Waz said | October 2nd 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

      Poppa will be a hard act to follow, but not impossible. The recent FFA Cup match sums his tenure up – unlucky not to be out of sight in the first half, but a bit lucky to make it to penalties in the second; wanderers could always be hot n cold and the squad was always being overhauled and you never know what you’d get next. That’s the biggest risk for this season .. he’s brought in several players with a plan in mind, will someone else be able to execute that plan?

      All clubs need to be able to survive these transitions in the same way as star players moving on. This is normal and successful clubs develop to be resilient, I’m sure wanderers will be fine.

      I will say this though – is there anyone that doesn’t know the season starts in a week now? This has launched the A League season better than any soap-box marketing campaign could do … but maybe they’ll change it to “you’ve gotta have a coach” now??

      • Roar Pro

        October 2nd 2017 @ 6:28pm
        albatross said | October 2nd 2017 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

        Perhaps they could do a MyFootballClub/Ebbsfleet thing and turn the selections and tactics over to the members?

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 12:21pm
      Midfielder said | October 2nd 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

      Will be interesting to see if they go local or overseas

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 12:39pm
      Realfootball said | October 2nd 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

      For all Popovic’s considerable and impressive achievements, there is a good argument for the club benefiting from a freshen up with a new coach.

      At this short notice, surely they will appoint a local coach who knows western Sydney and the A League. I would love to see Rudan given a shot. He’s ready, he’s local, he’s qualified and he’s a first rate analyst.

      I find it hard to imagine that either Gombau or Milicic would take the job with their current commitments.

      No one has mentioned Damien Mori in the discussion of possible candidates, which surprises me.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 12:45pm
        RBBAnonymous said | October 2nd 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

        The sad reality is that for a club of WSW stature they would want someone who has top tier football credentials.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 1:04pm
          Realfootball said | October 2nd 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

          Maybe, RBB. I still hold hope for Rudan. He fits the identity of the club.

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 1:15pm
            RBBAnonymous said | October 2nd 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

            He is the big blue man. His identity is on the other side of Sydney. I’m not sure he could do it :))

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 2:23pm
            Lionheart said | October 2nd 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

            at least it would get him off Fox

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:34pm
      saul said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

      Whoever is made the manager I will give them my support. Foxe, Kalac, Carrasco as long as they wear the red and black i will stand behind them.

      • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:43pm
        Lionheart said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

        Thought I read that Kalac is thought to be moving too – I guessed with Popa.

        • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:58pm
          saul said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

          Saul’s always in the dark, if he is taking all three with him then it is a dog act

          • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:59pm
            saul said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

            And we gave him all that money to spend hang on a sec we just got screwed

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