Derby desolation … Western Sydney Wanderers moved into fourth place and secured local bragging rights with their 2-0 victory on Saturday night over Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium. The Sky Blues are now anchored at the bottom of the table.Just when will Sydney FC get sick of being humiliated?
Saturday night was the fourth time this season that Sydney, as a club, have been genuinely embarrassed in a big game. From 11 matches, that’s not good enough from a club meant to be so much greater.
Most horribly, three of those matches – losses to Newcastle, Melbourne Victory and now Western Sydney – occurred at home after a massive build-up. Sickeningly, almost halfway through the season, Sydney still haven’t won at Allianz Stadium.
Why? See for yourself. Playing at home seems to frighten them. As soon as the players emerge from the tunnel, they look like they want to go back up the race. True, crowds in Sydney are the league’s most scathing – they will cheer what they like but they will heckle ferociously what they don’t. Look at the guy who threw his membership card at Ian Crook. It’s a bit like watching the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Put simply, when the Sky Blues are down, this city doesn’t want a bar of them. Sydney is a town for winners, and a show, and if you can’t do both, you’re ignored. When you can’t do either, the umbilical cord is cut. All that seems to unsettle the players.
The day Sydney arrives as a club will be when they sign players who embrace the big stage, who want to play in the spotlight and win in the spotlight. Funnily enough, that’s why they were so good in season one: these were the very type of players they signed.
It should be an honour and a privilege to play for Sydney FC. To hide under the bosom of mediocrity – as some do – doesn’t cut it any longer.
If they are fair dinkum about themselves, training this week should be the most intense you’ll ever see. If they are really fair dinkum, it won’t just be Alessandro Del Piero who stays behind after training. Why is it almost always only him, anyway?
It’s time for the leaders to grab the club by the scruff of the neck. The big personalities need to take charge of the dressing room. Those not pulling their weight need to hold others accountable. It shouldn’t be cosy.
The leaders, too, need to look at themselves. Sydney shells out more dollars to its players than any other club, but the return on the investment is poor. Some players of note are badly out of form. They need to put their hand up and commit to turning themselves around. If they don’t, they’re setting a terrible example to their young players.
Frank Farina has to see this. The booster-jab of his arrival has now worn off. Either he tries to foolishly claim that ”feeling” back, like Jim Magilton tried to do at Melbourne Victory, or he beds down things that can lift Sydney out of their rabble-like state.
Getting them fitter is a start. Making them tougher is another. Not physically, mind you, but mentally. It won’t happen overnight but every day is an opportunity to point the ship in the right direction. The malaise that has infected the club ever since they won their second championship needs to be exterminated, once and for all.
Unfortunately, it might take a moment like Saturday night to make it happen. I hope Farina will see the depth of the task that lies ahead. It might mean having some deep and meaningful discussions. It might mean making some harsh decisions.
The good news? There’s still time to save the season. If the players and coaches want it, and are prepared to push themselves to excel, the finals aren’t beyond them.
Besides, with a fully fit Joel Griffiths and Del Piero in attack by then, anything can happen. Momentum is a funny beast, and if they can seize it, nobody will want to visit Moore Park.
They own their own destiny but the question remains: how badly do they want it?
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