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ISSUE 17 FEBRUARY 14

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WE PREVIEW THE UPCOMING ACL MATCHES

ANTE

COVIC

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F E AT U R E S T O R Y

WANDERERS COACH TONY POPOVIC PHOTO: MELINDA JANE

STORY BY ELISHA PEARCE

Focus turns to ACL matches THE WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS WILL FACE A NEW CHALLENGE LATER THIS MONTH WHEN THEY PLAY THE FIRST OF THEIR ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCHES...

T

HE WANDERERS HAVE A week off from A-League action this week as focus at the club shifts towards the challenge facing them in Asia this year. Wednesday week will see the Wanderers kick off their Asian Champions League campaign with a group match at home. From that point the Wanderers will play six matches across two months, hosting and travelling away to each team in Group H. On

secure away points on what invariably ends up a wet Wednesday night match in the ACL. The Wanderers will play a heavy schedule of at least 13 matches in the two months from their ACL debut. It’s hard to understate just how taxing that will be on the players, especially with all the travel involved. They could be playing in the A-League grand final just three days before the ACL round of 16 knockout stage begins.

making up for the technical deficiencies with a showing of fitness and team work. The Wanderers are in a fairly tough group, making the extra squad preparation an intelligent move. Ulsan Hyundai will be very tough, having won the ACL previously, unbeaten through the entire tournament. South Korean sides have also won three of the last five ACL tournaments and made the final in the other two. Guizhou Renhe might be the Wanderers best bet at sweeping six points. They finished fourth in the Chinese Super League but had a -1 goal difference compared to third place’s

is the fact the ACL winner takes home $1.5 million. If the reported sale value of $12 million for the Wanderers is accurate that is not an insignificant sum of money. It has become a bit of a trend for A-League sides to bolster the squad just before their ACL campaigns kick off. Central Coast Mariners have made a splash this year by signing 28-year-old South Korean mid-fielder Kim Seung-yong to play for them in the ACL. The Wanderers have gone younger by signing defenders Anthony Golec and Daniel Mullen along with attacker Golgol Mebrahtu, who are all 23 or 24.

“It appears safe to say Popovic is taking the ACL seriously and won’t use the club’s infancy as an excuse for failure” the away legs they’ll visit places as far flung as Guiyang in China, Ulsan in South Korea and the port city of Kawasaki, Japan. Wanderers Head Coach Tony Popovic has spent the majority of the season in a holding pattern anticipating the need for fresh legs as the heavy lifting in Asia combines with the A-League championship defence and, almost certainly, finals football. Popovic is yet to produce the same Wanderers starting 11 in any match so far this year in order to have the legs needed to

It appears safe to say Popovic is taking the ACL seriously and won’t use the club’s infancy as an excuse for failure. No Australian team has won the ACL. Adelaide United are our only finalists, where they were flogged by Gamba Osaka five-nil on aggregate in 2009. Traditionally the ACL has presented A-League teams with a level of technical excellence they aren’t quite able to match, especially after travelling mid-week. Often they resort to a compact, physical style;

+23, suggesting a two-tiered league. The flip-side to that is a pasty in the draw means more points will be required to progress from the group. Kawasaki Frontale presents a tough challenge with a lot of classy players. Junichi Inamoto, Kengo Nakamura and Yoshito Okubo have all played for the Japanese National team. Okubo scored 28 goals in 39 matches for the team in all competitions last year. Making the incentive a little more enticing

Last year’s group stage indicates the Wanderers will need between seven and 11 points to get out of the group stage, depending on how lopsided the draw is. The job might be made easier for the Wanderers in the first match-ups as the other teams in the group haven’t played in real competition since their seasons ended in December last year. After the Wanderers play Perth in A-League round 20, they’ll race back to Parramatta to host Uslan Hyundai on Wednesday, February 26. WANDERWORLD | 3


F E AT U R E S T O R Y

ANTE MILICIC IS LEAVING THE WANDERERS. PHOTO: EFCSO MEDIA

STORY BY NATHAN TAYLOR

Coaching duo broken up TONY POPOVIC WILL LOSE HIS PARTNER IN CRIME AFTER ASSISTANT COACH ANTE MILICIC AGREED TO JOIN THE SOCCEROOS FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS...

W

ANDERERS ASSISTANT COACH ANTE Milicic says he will miss working at a place he loves but couldn’t turn down an opportunity to broaden his career with the Socceroos. On Tuesday, Milicic was announced as assistant coach to Socceroos head coach Ange Postecoglou for the next three years, an honour that will include this year’s FIFA World Cup.

“I’m very proud to be given the opportunity to join the national team setup with Ange, it’s something that every coach and player aspires to, so I feel very grateful,” the 39-year-old told Wanderworld. “I got a call from Ange about six weeks ago asking of the interest to be part of the Socceroos setup. When you get a call like that it was sudden and surprising but it was one we had a few discussions about and

obviously I had to accept.” Milicic, who’s also been an assistant at the Melbourne Heart as well as the Wanderers, said he’ll miss working with his partner in crime, Tony Popovic, who has seen him every day for the better part of two years. “I spoke a lot with Popa about the decision, we are close on and off the field, but you’ve got to take the opportunity when your country calls,” he said. “I’m very happy here at the Wanderers, and that was the hardest part ,that I’m actually enjoying my work here. It’s not easy to leave a place you love.” Popovic said he was sad to lose his

offsider but credited him as a major part in the Wanderers’ success to date. “Our relationship is excellent, we work very closely together and I rely on him a lot,” he said. “Of course the big picture for him is the Socceroos but I know Ante very well and he wants to finish this season on a high before he moves on.” Wanderers star Labinot Haliti said Milicic has had a huge impact on his career over the years. “I’ve known Ante for a long time, I’ve played with him and now coached under him,” he said.

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ADAM PEACOCK

P R O U D LY B R O U G H T T O Y O U B Y Y O U R L O C A L M C D O N A L D ’ S S T O R E S

The trust is gone ADAM Peacock is a respected sports journalist who is currently part of the Fox Sports team covering the 2013/14 A-League season

T

RUST –THE VERY FOUNDATION of relationships. Have it, and all incidentals are just details that get in the way occasionally. Don’t have it, and even the good times will be swept away quickly as the truth returns ingloriously. Sydney FC and their most ardent supporters have a very serious problem: the trust is gone. Wanderers fans might enjoy this, but it can happen anywhere and has this season. Melbourne Victory and their active supporter groups are at loggerheads over access and game day operations at one end of their home ground. It’s a complex situation that has gone on all season with

the club annoyed the fans think they can do whatever they like when in the stands, while the fans can’t work out why the club wants to control the area like they do. There are less issues in a whole season of ‘Home and Away’. The Sydney situation is simple. The Cove, their active supporter base, don’t trust club management and their decision making. They want Frank Farina out; and the CEO and Chairman to go too. Too many wrong decisions, too much wasted time, money and energy. So last Saturday night, they let their frustration known with pre-match banners calling for such action, but as they were packing them up to watch the game,

security picked one out of the crowd and ejected her. Wrong one, it was the leader of the Cove’s wife, so he went with her, which is probably wise – would you stay at the pub if your better half was unjustly booted out? If you wanted to live the next day, no. Post-game, Pignata and Barlow tweeted they had no issues with the banner and didn’t ask for anyone’s removal. But someone at Sydney FC did tell security she had to go. This is just one detail in the grand scheme – but not a minor detail – it’s a perfect example of perhaps why Sydney FC fans don’t trust their decision makers anymore. Once the trust is gone, good luck getting it back.

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Thrilling draw

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HE WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS played out a thrilling 1-1 draw with the Brisbane Roar last weekend. The Roar led 1-0 for much of the game, but a late goal ensured the points were shared. Our photographer Melinda Jane captured the highlights...

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KEEPING UP WITH COVIC

We deserved more than a draw GOAL keeper ANTE Covic gives us a player’s perspective on the Western Sydney Wanderers with an exclusive column every single week

A

S A TEAM WE certainly weren’t pleased with the 1-1 result against Brisbane Roar last Friday night. Besart Berisha is a dangerous player inside the box and we gave him too much space early in the game and he put one away, but credit to the boys in how we picked ourselves up. Realistically, on the balance of play, we were disappointed we didn’t walk away with the three points because we had chance after chance but we just couldn’t put the ball in the net. I think that was the difference. Overall, we are very pleased about the performance, not so much the scoreline but it puts us in good stead going forward. We don’t play an A-League game this weekend but that doesn’t mean we stop working towards our goals. We had three days off after the Brisbane game, which was good because we could unwind and relax. We returned to training on Tuesday and

we were put through our paces with some tough sessions throughout the week. It’s probably our best chance before a very busy schedule to really focus on a few things. In terms of injuries, everyone’s back and healthy, which is great, and then we’ll start again this coming week to prepare for the Perth game next weekend. Like Popa said: “We’ve had our three days off and now it’s back to business”. With the AFC Champions League beginning later this month, many people have asked what my role will be during the campaign. Popa is a man of mystery and is a week to week coach, his focus is on the next game. It all depends on where players are mentally and physically. There’s a lot of games coming up and every game will be assessed individually. Popa’s not the type of person that will say

“you play the first two… I’m going to give you a rest”, it depends on the individual, everyone’s going to have to wait and see which is the best direction to go in with the amount of games we play. Lastly, my namesake at training Ante Milicic, who is our assistant coach, announced this week he was leaving us at the end of the season for the Socceroos. Ante has been fantastic from day one, him and Popa work extremely well together. He is very thorough and like Popa, he makes sure everything is ticked. He’s got a really good understanding of the game but you’ve got to congratulate him. He’s had ambitions, he wants to be the best and now he has the chance.

Want to ask Ante Covic a question? Send your questions to news@westernweekender. com.au with the subject ‘Ask Ante’ and we’ll pass your questions on.

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A-LEAGUE LADDER POS

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W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Brisbane Roar

12

2

4

33

16

+17

38

2

Western Sydney Wanderers

8

7

4

23

19

+4

31

3

Central Coast Mariners

7

6

5

19

20

-1

27

4

Melbourne Victory

7

6

6

26

29

-3

27

5

Adelaide United

6

6

6

28

24

+4

24

6

Wellington Phoenix

6

5

7

26

23

+3

23

7

Sydney FC

7

1

10

23

27

-4

22

8

Perth Glory

5

6

7

18

20

-2

21

9

Newcastle Jets

5

5

8

19

25

-6

20

10

Melbourne Heart

3

6

9

18

30

-12

15

LEGEND W Wins A Points Against

D Draws GD Goal Difference

L Losses Pts Ladder Points

F Points For

UPCOMING

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Wanderworld issue 17 Printed by:

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Contributors:

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LAST WEEK’S ACTION

Sharing the points

I

PHOTO: MELINDA JANE

REVIEWED BY JUSTIN TODD

N WHAT WAS SURE to be the biggest clash of the season, the league’s leaders Brisbane Roar travelled to Pirtek Stadium to take on the second placed Wanderers. The Roar were aiming to further increase their gap whilst the Wanderers surely could not afford to miss the chance to reduce the visitors’ lead at the top of the table. It was the Wanderers who had the most to lose. That desperation and do or die mentality saw the Wanderers dominate the early stages. An energetic opening resulted in a number of corners for the Wanderers, but the hosts were unable to make the most of their set-piece opportunities. Despite the Wanderers’ dominance, it was Brisbane who showed why they’re on top of the table. James Donachie found space on Brisbane’s right side and picked out Besart Berisha who recovered well after a poor first touch to sweep the ball home with his left foot. The Wanderers’ response was swift with Youssouf Hersi drawing a number of questionable free kicks, however the home side failed to make the visitors pay. The Wanderers most notable chance came from a Youssouf Hersi breakaway that drew a tidy

save from Roar keeper Michael Theo. Overall it was an extremely tactical and cautious first half, leading to a fierce midfield battle that resulted in an incredible 27 fouls. As they did in the first half, the Wanderers came out after the break full of energy and only the post could deny Brendon Santalab from levelling the scores. The home side didn’t let several close calls break their spirits and continued to push a Brisbane Roar side that weren’t accustomed to being dominated like this for perhaps the entire season. Spiranovic, Bridge and Santalab all had chances but remarkably managed to keep the Wanderers scoreless. The latter stages of the match saw Brisbane desperately trying to hold onto all three points, and the away side should have taken a 2-0 lead, though substitute Henrique could only roll his effort wide of the post. With 10 minutes to play and the clock winding down it looked as if Brisbane had done enough for a draw before Aaron Mooy’s glorious cross found Haliti who poked home a deserved equaliser and a point which was the least the Wanderers deserved.

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W A N D E R B I T S W I T H W A L LY T H E W A N D E R E R

Heart snare Mooy from Wanderers WALLY the Wanderer has all the gossip on the Western Sydney Wanderers

LUKE PRIDDIS

T

HE WANDERERS HAVE SIGNED another player in preparations for the upcoming AFC Champions League campaign. Defender Antony Golec, 23, has joined the club for the duration of the AFC Champions League group stage and potential Round of 16 matches. With experience in Asia and several underage national team caps under his belt, Golec is a sturdy defender who will add another dimension to the Wanderers’ back line

throughout the competition. “As well as experience playing matches in the AFC Champions League for Adelaide, I bring youth, pace and enthusiasm to the defensive line,” he said. It looks like Aaron Mooy’s days as a Wanderer are numbered after news he has chosen the Melbourne Heart as his new club from next season and beyond. While nothing is official it’s understood Mooy made the

decision to leave for the Heart last month before they ‘got into bed’ with EPL side Manchester City. Mooy was one of Western Sydney’s first ever signings and is a favourite among fans. However, his coyness of late surrounding his future has made supporters reconsider their feelings towards him. The Wanderers have announced Visy as its major corporate partner for the upcoming Asian Champions League.

Already an existing partner of the Wanderers, Visy, on the back of its expansion plans into Asia and its focus on increasing its brand visibility across the broader Asian market, has increased its partnership level with the club by agreeing to feature on the front of the shirt for the Club’s 2014 ACL campaign. The W-League side fell to Perth Glory 2-1 last weekend.

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Wanderworld February 14  

We sing for Wanderers

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