Rudan revels in Wanderland rebuild

A year ago this week, head coach Marko Rudan took charge of a Western Sydney Wanderers side in crisis.

Twelve months later, as his team prepare for Saturday’s home derby with Sydney FC, the club is showing signs they are closing in on ending a six-year finals drought.

When he was named Wanderers boss, Rudan became the club’s fifth head coach in five years. Western Sydney were languishing in 11th spot and fans had voted with their feet.

In a nod to the club’s past glories, Rudan spoke of trying to find a way “back up the mountain”.

A year later, that climb looks to be well underway.

Wanderers lie in second spot on the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder, having just signed former Manchester United and France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin. 

A derby win would only strengthen their belief for the run towards the end of the regular season, during which they only have to leave NSW twice.

“It’s not just another game to be fair, we all know that,” Rudan said of Saturday’s CommBank Stadium clash.

“It’s a big game for our club and our members.

“We’re flying, we’ve been in the top three all season and we’re starting to play some top football.

“I know what my team is about and I don’t need to add any (pressure), they know what’s coming up this week.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 01: Yeni Ngbakoto of the Wanderers celebrates scoring a goal during the round 10 A-League Men’s match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC at CommBank Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Rudan recruited a side sculpted in his own image over the off-season – tough, workmanlike and with a dash of swagger.

Playmaker Milos Ninkovic was the headline-grabbing signing, but it is another cast-off from Sydney FC in Calem Nieuwenhof who has the Wanderers ticking in midfield.

Goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas and Brazilian centre back Marcelo have marshalled a defensive unit which is the club’s most frugal in nine seasons, while versatile forward Brandon Borrello has been a menace all season.

“We are starting to see some of the rewards come out,” Rudan said.

“There’s a resolve about this club and there’s a great mentality.”