A football club is nothing without support from the stands. Luckily, the Wanderers are able to boast some of the most loyal and passionate Members in the country.
It all started on a cold winter’s evening in July 2012. The venue was Cook Park in St Mary’s, the opposition Nepean FC.
Football Federation Australia had formed the new Western Sydney club in April. Three months on, the Wanderers were to play their first ever match.
Tickets are available to todays match against Wellington Phoenix here.
The team was thrown in at the proverbial deep end. Tony Popovic has barely got his feet under the desk and for this encounter he had just seven contracted players at his disposal with the squad almost entirely comprised of trialists.
If anything, it was at this moment that the fans learnt of the new manager’s ethos: there would be no room for excuses. Likewise, Popovic caught a glimpse of the mentality of his new fans. He might not have known it at the time but the manager and his shell of a side had secured the unflinching support of the terraces not only before a ball had even been kicked but before a team had been put together.
In front of 3,500 onlookers, including a ‘noisy bunch on the northern hill’, the Wanderers defeated the NPL side 5-0. Witnesses fondly recall the occasion as the start of a love affair and as the prologue of the most remarkable sporting journeys Australia has seen.
You couldn’t blame the would-be-Wanderers fans for approaching the night with relative caution: a cold weeknight, a fair drive and the slightly uncomfortable factor of not knowing what to expect would put off the ordinary punter.
As those who attended Cook Park that night would quickly discover, this was no ordinary club and it would house no ordinary supporters. Something special reverberated around that ground that night.
Something extraordinary was stirring in the west.
In the months previous, the FFA held supporter forums across the Western Sydney region. Members met, ate, drank and designed their football club.
It was to be an institution for Western Sydney by Western Sydney. It was clear from the club’s formative stages that the governing body was committed in fostering a community focus for the league’s newest player, but they needn’t have worried: the Western Sydney region was very much on the same page.
Almost four years on and the dust is finally settling on the Wanderers’ entrance to the Hyundai A-League. The impact the club has had on the league has been profound with the side delivering a frankly unthinkable amount of success in little over three seasons. The arrival of the Red & Black changed the game in so many ways but it was a change only made possible by the community of Western Sydney itself.
Although the gap is diminishing by the year, Australia’s Hyundai A-League is somewhat ostracised from the rest of the global game. It is by no means outlandish to suggest that the league’s profile rose at the same time the Wanderers and their fans took the game down under by storm.
The Wanderers are a product of the sport’s modernity but the fans’ ability to harness the traditional cornerstones of the world game and integrate them into the fabric of the club so effectively has been nothing short of amazing.
But Wanderers’ Members are more than just the best support in the league. They are the beating heart of the club and the pillars of the Western Sydney community, united under one banner. They are one family fiercely proud of their heritage, proud of the region’s sprawling, culturally diverse suburbs.
Together, they have shown that Western Sydney can achieve amazing things.
In an era where the moral compass of the beautiful game continues to plummet south, a love story continues to unfold in the heartland of football.