Rudan found what he was looking for in Wanderland: It’s different

Western Sydney Wanderers head coach Marko Rudan admits that the time for reflection has come sooner than expected.

“My mindset was that we’d get past this game and move on to the next one,” said the Wanderers boss, in the aftermath of his side’s 2-1 Elimination Final defeat to Sydney FC.

“But I’m very proud of the players. I’m very proud of my staff. It’s been a long journey, to finish fourth, play finals football for the first time in a long time for this club.”

The 2022-23 Isuzu UTE A-League season marked the Wanderers’ return to the Finals Series for the first time in six years. It’s been a memorable campaign in Wanderland, as a band of star recruits worked in tandem with Rudan to re-establish many of the club’s best attributes that have so rarely been present amongst Western Sydney squads since the halcyon days of the club’s inception.

But ultimately, the campaign ends on a sour note. Defeat to bitter rivals Sydney FC on Saturday night was a surprise for the fourth-place finishers, and to fall to a 2-1 loss after leading 1-0 is what arguably stung the most.

Rudan took over in Wanderland last season, and has since led a rejuvenation of the squad, encouraging his team to play with style whilst showing plenty of steel. 

The former Wellington Phoenix and Western United boss did his best to reflect on the season that was in the aftermath of the derby defeat. Rudan said that, of the three clubs he had coached around the A-League Men, he’d never seen a higher bar set in terms of season expectations. 

He’s urged the club to raise that bar even higher next season to kick on to bigger and better things.

“It’s different,” he said. “I’ve been to two other clubs where the expectations are nowhere near as high as this one and that’s why it makes this one so much better. Not taking anything away from coaching the other clubs, but like I said, I just feel like it, it’s not as strong as this one.

“So everything’s multiplied by five or 10, but we’ve had a really good season. You can’t deny that, we’ve built into the team that I wanted us to be.

“We played some really good football and we’re gonna continue that path next year. That’s what I can promise.

“My promise is that we’ll be better next year than we were this year and you’ll see a different type of team right from the outset, not one that was bit more rigid and in our defensive structure, we’ve built something in the last few months. Now, we want to continue that on.”

Rudan added: “12 months ago, the journey started. I don’t really want to reflect, but I guess this is the time to do it because I haven’t properly reflected on it because my mindset was that we’d get past this game and move on to the next one”