Wanderer Mitchell Duke may have been on the “wrong side” for Western Sydney’s historic first match in the Hyundai A-League at Parramatta Stadium back on 6 October 2012, but it was a match he has remembered for a long time.
While the Round One game ended in a 0-0 stalemate, Duke, playing for Central Coast Mariners at the time, was nonetheless struck in awe by the atmosphere created by the Wanderers fans.
Fast forward seven years and the proud, Liverpool-born attacker is preparing to play in front of the passionate Wanderers again when the club makes its long-awaited return to Bankwest Stadium.
This time, however, he’ll be wearing the famous Red & Black hoops having returned to his Western Sydney roots after joining the Wanderers in the middle of last season during the January transfer window.
“We had a taste of the new stadium against Leeds last month and it was an unbelievable atmosphere, so there is a lot to look forward to for the fans being back home after such a long time away,” said Duke.
“What better way to do it than against the Mariners, who we played against in the first game here when I was actually on the other side. It’s exciting and a massive moment for the club.”
Duke admits he has good memories of that night seven years ago.
“I remember that game well. It was crazy, it was loud, it was passionate and it was intimidating. To play against it was unbelievable and now, to be on the other side playing with it behind me is so exciting,” he said.
“I hope it will be that same taste and feeling that it was all that time ago.”
The forward has no doubts that the intense and passionate backing of the fans makes a huge difference to the players.
“I think it gives you that little bit extra percentage to play better,” he explained.
“You want to be better for the fans and with that sort of atmosphere it sort of eggs you on and it pumps you up.
“To play in front of that again is just a massive thing for a player and it’s going to be huge for the club this season.”