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Adventures in A-League Version 8: The Half-Century Beckons...

by Alex's view from the terrace on Oct 10, 2012

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I'm a football tragic, no argument. Since moving back to Australia from the UK in 2005, I've embraced our new domestic league completely and support it as best I can. I've attended a total of 243 games in the seven seasons of the A-League that have so far been played. I set my season best in A-League Version with 47 games attended. I never thought that I'd have the chance to break that record so soon, with further expansion of the competition looking a fairly distant prospect, but the founding of Western Sydney Wanderers gave me just such an opportunity.

In addition to existing memberships with Sydney FC, Newcastle and the Central Coast, a season ticket at WSW has boosted my potential total for A-League version 8 to beyond the magic half-century of matches in one campaign. The plan is to have attended 56 fixtures between rounds 1 and 27 along with however many finals games I can manage in addition to the grand final itself (I always attend the season decider, no matter who's playing or where). That's my target. This blog is a document of how well I can manage the attempt.

Games 1, 2 and 3 of my season

My first Melbourne derby almost didn't happen at all. Just over two hours before my flight south was supposed to depart, I got a text from JetStar (or, DeathStar, as I prefer to call them) informing me that my flight had been cancelled and that I should call them to discuss my options. One promise of a refund and a hastily-booked QANTAS flight later and things were back on-track. 

Even if the dome isn't the ideal football venue, it was one befitting an impressive crowd of 42,032 and has hosted many a memorable A-League and Socceroos fixture. This opening match-day derby proved yet another one of those, I'm very pleased to say. Both teams certainly went at each other, pressing high up the pitch and, to varying degrees, leaving a lot of space for lobbed passes to be played over defenders' heads. However much Melbourners may be ruing or celebrating the result, it a was a great night's entertainment for this neutral Sydneysider. The sense of positive, attacking play that had been encouraged and coached into their respective sides by both managers was clear to see. The quality of the of the finishing was especially pleasing, as well. I couldn't help but feel stoked for Marco Rojas when he tucked away his goal as deftly as he did. On saying that, the Heart faithful must have enjoyed getting one over the Victory even more. It was the game of the round, no question.

Saturday saw a great catch-up with a mate over breakfast (cheers, Azza) before a return flight to Sydney and the promise of Western Sydney Wanderers' first fixture as an A-League side. It was genuinely exciting to be around the new home pub for the WSW supporters and share some of the anticipation of their beginnings in our league. Being a member at the club, I do have something of an interest. I met up with another veteran campaigner who's now formally adopted the Wanderers as his side, having been a Sydney FC supporter by default before that. He's now loving life in red and black and I can't blame him one bit for revelling in supporting a team that represents where he's from. The march to the stadium by the Red Black Bloc (RBB) was an adventure in itself. There are friendships that will be made behind that north goal that will last a lifetime.

Whatever else you'd say about the game, it's pretty clear that WSW will definitely be competitive in the course of their first season. They're no North Queensland Fury or New Zealand Knights. Popovic has put together a team that knows what it's doing and what he expects of them. I'd be surprised if they didn't finish inside the top six come round 27.

My trips up and down the F3 over the life of the A-League have become a real institution. Whether the whole enterprise has seemed a pointless, masochistic exercise in self-punishment or an amazing, life-affirming pilgrimage to a the scene of footballing theatre, I keep coming back. The feeling among Jets fans was understandably optimistic due to their newly-arrived English import promising to spearhead their attack against an Adelaide side that had played and lost away in Tashkent midweek. All that positive feeling and anticipation of goals-to-come was dispelled within a minute of kick off. Eugene Galekovic comically bouncing-off Emile Heskey aside, there wasn't a great deal for the sizeable home crowd to cheer about. With an equally underwhelming Sydney FC next on Newcastle's agenda, I'm hoping against hope that they don't conspire to make for a seriously dour, clueless nil-nil draw in front of what promises to be a record regular-season crowd as the SFS.

If that opening set of fixtures is anything to go by, we can expect yet another season of torn-up form books and high-profile sides being upset with some regularity. The A-League has begun anew, in other words. With a new record aggregate crowd for one round across the five fixtures just played and some record viewing figures on Fox, it just goes to show that more people are starting to see things my way. That may seem like me grasping at straws in trying to use statistics to appear less sad. Fair point, but I'll take my small victories where I can find them... just like the NZ Knights did those few years ago. Roll-on round 2, with it's zero reliance on air travel. Sydney FC vs. Newcastle and The Mariners at home to Perth Glory await.