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Opinion

All quiet on the Western (United) front

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Expert
3 days ago
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While Markus Babbel finds himself in the firing line after three straight defeats, it’s slightly quieter on the other western front.

But much like his Western Sydney Wanderers counterpart, Western United manager Mark Rudan can’t buy a win at the moment.

No one is saying Rudan should be sacked, but there is cause for concern at Kardinia Park – and not just for the overly anxious security team.

More worrying than 200 Sydney fans not sitting down is the spot of bother Rudan’s team finds itself in on and off the park.

Rudan’s a solid operator. He’s got a front line of pre-historic age levels, but there’s plenty of quality in his team and he should be able to get things back on track.

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But he has little control over what’s happening off the park. We continue to wait for any kind of update on the progress of their new home, which by now has to be a massive cause for concern.

The club simply is not gaining anywhere near the traction they would have hoped for in Geelong, but this is hardly a surprise.

It’s not for a lack of trying. The local club email inbox I help manage has been constantly sent offers for free tickets, but there’s a small problem: the club in question is over 80 kilometres away from Kardina Park.

It was always going to be a hard sell to get serious community investment from an area when the people in that community know full well you will not be there in five years.

It must be a harder sell when you’re trying to attract people almost 100 kilometres away.

Western United fans cheer their team on.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

If I knew that Melbourne Heart would become Melbourne City and wear City blue when they joined the A-League, I would never have bought a membership.

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And that’s where the A-League model continues to fall over.

Without a home – and without any ability to rely on an identity, culture and people – it’s hard for any club to attract and retain supporters. The Wanderers’ struggles in between stadiums also provided evidence of that.

I understand that facilities don’t just happen. But while it’s well and good to look two years into the future – and let’s be honest, we’re probably looking further ahead than that – the club has to be viable in the short term, too.

A home derby against Melbourne Victory – a team no stranger to Geelong – will hopefully provide a much-needed big crowd, but who knows if they will attend given the treatment of Sydney FC’s travelling supporter base last week.

United desperately need a solid contingent of away fans to turn up to boost their shoddy metrics – but until they have a home in which they can attract and build their own supporter base, these derbies will prove little more than a sugar hit.

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I wrote before the season started that the club’s best chance at long-term survival lies in Rudan’s ability to cultivate a winning team and attract fans for the quality of his team and their play.

Unfortunately, even that prediction has fallen short. Post-game scenes after Western United’s incredible triumph over Victory at Marvel Stadium provided one of the highlights of the season and a glimmer of hope for what the club could be.

But without an update on their new stadium, I fear even success will only take them so far.