AS WE approach the opening whistle of yet another A-League season, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on the feats of Western Sydney Wanderers in their first season, and how they may fare in their second season.
A club with less than 12 months on the drawing board have a trophy cabinet already boasting a premiership plate, although grand final victory eluded them.
The establishment of the club as a competitive entity in such a short period of time speaks volumes for those charged with the on-field performances and the off-field structure, namely Tony Popovic and Lyle Gorman, respectively.
But the biggest accolade must go to the fans and sponsors whose magnificent support throughout the season gave both the team and the club the impetus and foundation to reach the dizzy heights achieved.
But now, after all those accomplishments, one must contemplate the inevitable "where to from here". To equal last season's achievements will be hard; to improve on them, near impossible. So without wishing to appear negative, it may be a case of contemplating mediocrity in 2013-14, with only the supporters equalling or improving on last season.
But in saying that, the success of any club can be measured by its supporters, and by this yardstick the Wanderers could finish light years in front of their opposition once again.
When getting caught up in the euphoria of the Wanderers achievements in their first season, one tends to overlook the shortcomings of those responsible for the promotion and development of the game here in Australia. Those shortcomings becoming seriously obvious with the success achieved by the fledgling outfit. The mere fact that it took the Football Federation Australia eight years to acknowledge the El Dorado of football in this country — western Sydney — highlights a substantial flaw in their understanding of the game, its strengths, and its place within the sporting and social fabric of this great country.
It wasn't a decisive act of genius that brought this club into being. It was a backs-to-the-wall, no-other-option scenario, brought about by the well-documented stoush with Clive Palmer and the eventual expulsion of his Gold Coast franchise.
Those of us that love and understand our great game, need to acknowledge those supporters and excellent sponsors for their patience and dedication for a club they had waited so long for.
*Ray Richards was a member of the 1974 Socceroos, the first to qualify for the World Cup.