It’s time to return to Wanderland and for the first time in three years it will be a stadium experience to remember.
From the early days of the club, Wanderland has been the standard-bearer when it comes to stadium experience: the atmosphere was the one that broke through the code wars. No matter what sport someone followed, they knew that Western Sydney Wanderers had the best atmosphere in Australian sport.
Football fans across the country, and Asia for that matter, have fond memories about the double whammy of a team on high momentum and an atmosphere high in passion and noise.
Not to mention the daunting prospect of having to front-up to a packed Wanderland for an opposition player.
Every Red & Black member and fan can remember the first game they attended where they could feel the crowd pushing the Wanderers over the line: a genuine 12th man when the support literally played a part in a late comeback or crucial second half goal.
It is stuff of football legend, and Wanderers folklore.
A few lean years followed during the construction of the new stadium, yet there were high hopes for a return to the Wanderland experience once CommBank Stadium was completed.
Unfortunately, since the memorable opening day of the new Wanderland against Leeds United back in 2019 – there has not been a full season in the stadium that has not been affected either by lockdowns or COVID restrictions.
In fact, since the day when the NSW Government first allowed the A-Leagues to continue behind closed doors – leading to a haunting Sydney Derby played in front of empty stands – there have been a total of 30 home games for the Wanderers.
That’s 30 matches with either crowd or COVID restrictions in place. But now, three years after initially setting foot in our new home ground, members and fans can once again truly enjoy the full stadium experience.
The stands are open, the bars are pouring drinks, the activations outside the ground are running, and, importantly, Marko Rudan has assembled a squad that looks capable at challenging for higher honours.
There’s two factors that define a quintessential Wanderers match day: a rocking atmosphere and a team ready to work hard and do what it takes to win.
For the first time in the new Wanderland, these two factors are back on the table at the same time.
Much has been made of the new players brought into the club with a stock of seasoned internationals with success both in the A-League and abroad.
Collectively, this year’s squad has won 40 top-flight league and cup honours and include four Socceroos, three non-Australian internationals, and a seasoned European professional who has since been named club captain.
Add in the potential of the up-and-coming Kusini Yengi and Calem Nieuwenhof as well as retained regulars such as Ramy Najjarine and Adama Traore, and it’s clear why there is some excitement growing around the squad.
A signing that embodies the mentality of the new squad is Oliver Bozanic: a player who has never missed out on finals in his eight seasons in the A-League Men. It’s this kind of winning experience that can be found amongst most of the squad.
Combined with the European experience of Yeni Ngbakoto, Sulejman Krpic, and Marcelo and Socceroos Lawrence Thomas, Ruon Tongyik, and Brandon Borrello – suddenly the balance of the squad starts to become clear.
In fact, it’s the balance of the squad that is a major factor with every position having multiple players who have been regular starters: creating genuine competition for a spot in the starting XI.
And all of that is without mentioning two-time Johnny Warren Medal winner, Milos Ninkovic: arguably the greatest ever A-League Mens player.
Success for a real football club cannot be just from a single aspect: a successful team on the field needs the strongest fanbase off the field. Likewise, for the best Wanderland experience – fans need a team they believe in.
With the new squad, the lift of Covid restrictions, and over 14,000 members now signed-up, it is genuinely possible that the 2022/23 A-League Mens season will provide the best stadium experience for members, partners, fans and players in six years.