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Can Parramatta return spur on Wanderers?

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Expert
16th April, 2019
48

As the Harbour City’s stadium shuffle continues, the weekend’s Sydney Derby was a potent reminder of how badly the A-League has missed the Wanderers’ Parramatta home base.

And the sneak peek fans were offered of the new mecca of football in the city’s west was more than enough to whet the appetite for the club’s return.

The cavernous ANZ Stadium scarcely deserved the tight, tense and eventful game which unfolded within it.

The half-full stands looked bad on television, affected the acoustics of the die-hard support, and took away from an intriguing game.

With fewer under 100 days until Western Sydney play their first game at Bankwest Stadium, the return to the parochial Parramatta surrounds is arguably the most exciting aspect of the upcoming season.

For the Wanderers, it represents the chance to rebuild a fortress – a true home from which they can re-launch their assault on A-League finals and perhaps even titles.

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For the league, it will hopefully mean the restoration of arguably its most colourful and impressive match-day experiences – that is if the FFA hasn’t totally killed the enthusiasm and passion of one of the country’s biggest and loudest active support groups.

Wanderers' fans rejoice in A-League season 2013/2014 (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

(AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

The willingness of supporters to flock to Bankwest as they once did at Parramatta Stadium will be crucial to the team’s success.

Whether the Red and Black Bloc returns in the numbers it once boasted or not, the club will be playing out of a truly impressive stadium.

Of course, this can also have a negative effect.

The pressure and expectation on Tottenham Hotspur to finally bridge the gap between themselves and the Premier League’s biggest clubs has increased tenfold following the completion of the new White Hart Lane.

Unlike Spurs, the Wanderers will not enter their first season in the new stadium from a position of strength.

It has been a tough slog for Western Sydney this season, and it cannot have been helped by seeing inaugural coach Tony Popovic take Perth Glory to the top of the table with consummate ease.

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The Wanderers have never recovered from Popovic’s shock exit from the club on the eve of the 2017-18 season, but a fresh start in a new home next season may prove the opportune time to embark on a new dynasty.

Tony Popovic

Tony Popovic (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

It certainly has not been an easy first season in charge for Markus Babbel, but despite failing to take his side to the finals, he looks set to be the man to lead them into this important new era.

With Oriol Riera, Raul Llorente, Brendan Hamill, Rashid Mahazi and Jordan O’Doherty all approaching the end of their contracts, the German will have plenty of room to remodel the squad during the off-season.

Perhaps that is the opportunity he needs to reinvigorate this stale team.

He will be buoyed by the fight shown in the Sydney Derby and perhaps the performance was enough to prove to the powers that be that the players are willing to fight for him.

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With a new team entering the competition in 2019, competition for talent will be tougher than ever, but the Wanderers will hope Babbel’s European connections and the lure of playing in a new stadium might help him transform the club into contenders.

After two disappointing seasons, the Western Sydney will not want to waste the golden opportunity its Parramatta homecoming presents.