Derby Day is upon us. Parramatta again becomes Australian football`s ground zero as tonight the Western Sydney `Geography` takes on the East Sydney `State Of Mind`. Mmmm… still trying to decipher the meaning behind the Cove`s fortune cookie inspired Tifo from the last derby.In Truth, I wonder if I`m alone in saying tonight`s Sydney Derby has a special feel to it?
The short but intense rivalry that has developed between our two clubs has made this fixture a true spectacle, not only for fans of our beautiful game but for all sports fans who appreciate one of Australian sport`s biggest occasions.
This match is always about more than three points. It`s about pride, bragging rights, the chance to hang a bit of the old proverbial on your East Sydney work mates and of course the opportunity to tell everyone who will listen that `WE RUN THIS TOWN`.
That`s what makes tonight`s Derby a little bit more special.
Tonight will be a historic battle. It will be the first time a club gets the chance to `RUN THIS TOWN` and `RUN THIS CONTINENT` at the same time.
Not just any old continent either. No. We`re talking Asia! The world`s largest region covering a third of our planet`s land mass. The most populous continent on earth too; 49 countries containing a staggering 4.5 Billion people. That`s right folks, Asia; currently owned by a `small club` called the Wanderers.
What happened that night in Riyadh was truly one of the gutsiest performances in football history. It also presented a courageous climax to a Champions League campaign rich in heroic moments.
Which memory is burned into your soul?
The stark reality check as we were drubbed 3-1 in our first game against Ulsan of Korea?
The RBB`s Tifo that was both bullish and prophetic, `Fear No One, Conquer All`?
The heartbreaking Grand Final Loss to Brisbane backed up by a trip to Hiroshima conceding a sloppy late goal as we went down 3-1?
How about Santa`s winner with four minutes left on the clock in the return leg?
And who could forget those easy going Chinese gazillionaires from Guanzhou? What about Lippi`s hilarious pitch-side sketch comedy and of course the disgraceful bus ramming bully boy tactics of their fans in China?
And then to the final in Saudi Arabia and the canonisation of Saint Ante of Covic, a giant between the sticks.
The Wanderers; Kings Of Asia.
Anyone else feeling a warm glow right now?
Of course it`s hard to get back into the domestic grind when we`ve just been on such an exhilarating international joy ride, but knuckle down we must. And, let`s face it, there is no better game to shake us out of our frequent flier revelry than a good old stoush against our posh mates from the East.
Tonight`s game promises to be a corker, not least because Graham Arnold is a terrific coach and has managed to guide his team into a very competitive head space. Gone are the defensive frailties that have plagued FC over the past two years as displayed by their recent run of six hours of football without conceding a goal. They look pretty handy up front too with Austrian International Janko showing all the traits of a quality goal poacher and at 6 foot 5 inches a constant threat at set pieces.
The good news for the Wanderers is that our new forward line is starting to show some signs of gelling into a potent attacking force creating a bucket load of chances over the past two games. Ruka and Romeo both appear to have the turn of speed to open up any A-League defence and Tomi will always be waiting hungrily in the box to gobble up any half chance that comes his way.
As with any Derby match there is a lot riding on tonight`s result. A few of my East Sydney mates have been trying to apply the blowtorch with constant jibes about the Wanderers` current lowly A-League position.
Yes, we are bottom of the ladder with just two points and winless. But I like to remind them that a) we are Champions of Asia and b) the last time I checked, the FFA were not handing out silverware for being fourth on the ladder after just seven games so… (you can imagine the rest of the reply!).
The Wanderers have had a remarkable couple of years not because of the Premiers Plate or the two Grand Finals or the ACL trophy but because of the meticulous and rigorous process Tony Popovic demands of everyone involved in the club.
Ask any new player or member of the coaching staff and they will tell you the attention to detail and the quality of process at the Wanderers is second to none. As long as we maintain that focus I`m confident we will always be near or in the winning circle come the season`s end.
It`s an ethic that runs through our fan base too. We love a goal but will sing even harder if we concede knowing that to be the mark of a true football fan.
Three little words define our incredible fans; win or lose.
Let`s hope tonight`s Derby is a classic.
A classic that ends in Wanderers triumph.
WE RUN THIS CONTINENT
LET`S RUN THIS TOWN