AFTER relishing what many declare as the best A-League season yet, augmented with a plethora of superstar marquee players and the emergence of a long-awaited team from Western Sydney, one can only get excited at the looming prospect of yet another season.
With the outstanding success of some of the superstars on and off the field, noticeably Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC), Emile Heskey (Newcastle Jets) and Shinji Ono (Western Sydney Wanderers), the game took another exceptional leap forward in standard and profile.
Alessandro, Emile and Shinji, through past and recent performances, are the magnets who draw all of us football tragics.
In particular, Alessandro, whose exquisite skills have adorned the playing surfaces of top stadiums across the world which now includes Australia, thanks to Sydney FC.
Western Sydney Wanderers' first sortie into the cauldron of competition was nothing short of sensational. Not at all fazed by the challenge, they never bothered to test the water by dipping in the toe, they plunged full-bore into the fray and now the rest is history.
Staunch rugby league columnists from mainstream newspapers got dragged in by the euphoria and success of the WSW juggernaut and this along with the superstars' lustre merely added to the spectacle that was the Hyundai A-League version 2012-13.
So what does the 2013-14 season hold to whet the appetite? Who will set the pace as WS Wanderers attempt back-to-back premierships and Sydney FC somewhat appear to be staggering towards yet another average season at this stage — even after a raft of new signings along with new captain Del Piero, Brett Emerton and returning prodigal son Nicky Carle.
The guns again this year I expect to be are Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United along with first season sensations the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Perth Glory appear primed for a stellar season with Melbourne Victory and, hopefully, Sydney FC causing some upsets. My anticipated cellar dwellers are Wellington Phoenix, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar.
Have a great season and whoever you support get there in numbers for the Hyundai A-League.
* Ray Richards is a member of the 1974 Socceroos.
■ Read an extended version of this column: fairfield champion.com.