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Opinion

Rebuilding active support is the biggest key to the A-League Men's success

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Expert
28th November, 2021
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How much would Western Sydney Wanderers like to have Tony Popovic back right now? He’s won two from two as Melbourne Victory coach while Carl Robinson continues to struggle.

Victory may have got a helping hand from a Kai Trewin own goal to get started on a glorious afternoon at AAMI Park, but they looked the business thereafter as they easily dispatched Brisbane Roar 3-0 in front of a vocal home crowd on Sunday.

Former Roar striker Nick D’Agostino swept home a second just four minutes later and when Ben Folami stooped to head home Marco Rojas’ pinpoint cross, it was game over for the visitors from Queensland.

Warren Moon didn’t look like he had too many answers in the Roar dug-out, but then it shouldn’t be forgotten just how difficult the logistics have been to even get the team from Brisbane and into Melbourne on back-to-back weekends given all the COVID restrictions.

And it was hard to begrudge a raucous home crowd their day out in the sun on the back of a difficult 18 months for the city of Melbourne.

Just over 13,000 fans turned out at AAMI Park but they sounded a lot louder than that, and you’d imagine there’ll be an even bigger crowd when they host Perth Glory next Sunday.

Will Daniel Sturridge play for the visitors? Who knows?

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Glory owner Tony Sage seemed to throw the former England striker under the bus when he said Sturridge missed Glory’s controversial 1-0 defeat to Western United on Friday night because “he’s not used to a four-hour flight”.

You’d imagine the former Liverpool star consulted a map before signing for one of the world’s most geographically isolated clubs, but either way his absence was a major talking point – at least until Dylan Wenzel-Halls scored the winner in contentious circumstances.

It was hard to tell whether the whole ball crossed the goal-line before Connor Pain crossed for substitute Wenzel-Halls to tap home via the post, but since the vision was inconclusive, it was nice to see the benefit of doubt go to the attacking team for once.

The 3,000-odd attendance at AAMI Park was fairly ordinary – the sooner Western United build this stadium in Tarneit, the better for everyone – but then crowds across the board were well down on previous campaigns.

That’s something we’re simply going to have to come to terms with in what is likely to be something of a slow-burn of a season.

Just over 8,000 fans turned out to watch Western Sydney’s entertaining 2-2 draw with the Newcastle Jets to finish the round on Sunday and given how expensive some of the tickets are at the New South Wales government-run CommBank Stadium, that’s arguably a reasonable turn-out.

The Wanderers have languished in the shadows of bigger clubs like Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory for years now and will continue to do so until their fans decide to return in decent numbers.

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But how likely is that to happen with Carl Robinson in charge?

Sydney FC fans

Sydney FC fans at the SCG (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Not for the first time under the Welshman, his team seemed like they were all at sea against a Newcastle Jets side that look like they’ll be decidedly tough to beat under Arthur Papas.

Only a couple of defensive blunders from the Jets kept the Wanderers in the game on Sunday, even if Bernie Ibini and Tomer Hemed both took their goals with aplomb.

Off the field, there’s hardly a better talker in the A-Leagues than Robinson. He speaks with such a force of conviction you get the sense that people are afraid to ever question him.

But it’s hard to really argue things are working out for him on the pitch. The Wanderers were dreadful in the first half on Sunday and ultimately threw away a 2-1 lead at home.

You can hardly blame fans for staying away.

But as Melbourne Victory clearly showed in the sunshine on Sunday, the A-League is only as good as its active support.

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Bring that back and watch the entire match-day experience improve.

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