It only seems like yesterday when the Western Sydney Wanderers, a club that had not existed 32 months earlier, were crowned Champions of Asia.
On this day in 2014, the Red & Black became the toast of Australian football after drawing 0-0 with Saudia Arabian powerhouse Al-Hilal on their home turf in the second leg of the AFC Asian Champions League (ACL) Final.
Tomi Juric’s single goal in the first leg at Wanderland eventually proved enough for the Wanderers to be the first Australian club to claim the title.
It was an extraordinary achievement in the context of a club having been cobbled together in just six months in 2012, that played its first Hyundai A-League game in October 2012, that went on to win the Premiers Plate six months later and qualified for the ACL.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, but look how far the Wanderers have come since that remarkable night at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh in front of a manic 64,000 crowd.
With a massive membership and fan base, the Wanderers are now one of the biggest clubs in Australian soccer and the pride of Sydney’s West.
While an Hyundai A-League championship still eludes them, for the time being, it has not stopped the Wanderers from surging forward in the relentless quest to put themselves at the forefront, not just of the game in this country, but of Australian mainstream sport.
A quick trip out to the club’s home base at Rooty Hill is testimony of the intent of the Wanderers board and management have had to ensure the club continues to strive to provide the absolute best for the men, women, boys and girls of the West to thrive and excel.
On completion by April, the eye-opening, multi-million dollar Centre of Football will include state-of-the-art training facilities, nine full-sized fields, a mini boutique stadium and seperate facilities for men and women.
All of the Wanderers teams, from the Hyundai A-League, to the Westfield W-League, to the Academy and to the NPL and representative sides will be housed at the complex.
A little over 20 kilometres down the road in Parramatta, the club is proud to call Bankwest Stadium home. Built at a cost of $360 million and officially opened in April, the magnificent stadium replaces the old Pirtek Stadium, which was the original Wanderland.
The Wanderers played their first game there in a friendly against English club Leeds on July 20 before celebrating their first Hyundai A-League game there with a 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners on 12 October.
While the Hyundai A-League side, under coaches Markus Babbel, Jean-Paul de Marigny and Labinot Haliti, is the jewel in the crown for the club, the Wanderers are leaving no stone unturned in the other areas.
Under coaches Dean Heffernan, Catherine Cannuli and Michael Beauchamp, the club has signalled its intent regarding the W-League having made some stellar signings for the coming season, including Australian international Amy Harrison, Sam Staab, US internationals Kristen Hamilton and Lynn Williams and Republic of Ireland international Denise O’Sullivan.
The highly regarded Wanderers Academy is another focal point. The Academy has already produced a number of quality, young players who have transitioned to the senior squad.
Highlighting the stunning success of the Academy so far, the Wanderers had six Academy graduates on the field at the one time during a recent Hyundai A-League game.
Mindful of the socio-economic factors in the West and the heavy financial burden that can impact families, the club removed all fees from youth players coming through their system.
That is the sort of community spirt and involvement and forward thinking that has become the focal point of a club that has come such a long way in such a short space of time.
But, the Wanderers are a club that will never stand still and that is why the best is yet to come.