It feels good to be home, says Western Sydney Wanderers forward Mitch Duke, as the club prepares to host Leeds United at the new Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night.
The Wanderers have lived a nomadic existence true to their name over the past three Hyundai A-League campaigns, but those years of frustration will turn into celebration when EFL Championship heavyweights Leeds come calling.
Since the 2016/17 season, the Wanderers have played out of at ANZ Stadium, Spotless Stadium, in Campbelltown and in Penrith as the old Parramatta Stadium was demolished and rebuilt.
Results have been on a steady decline during that time, with the three-time Hyundai A-League Grand Finalists and 2014 AFC Champions League winners finishing sixth, seventh and eighth respectively over the last three seasons.
But a return to the club’s spiritual home could be just what Western Sydney requires to become the Hyundai A-League force they once were. This is a sentiment echoed by Liverpool-born Duke, who addressed the pre-match media on Friday alongside Leeds captain Liam Cooper.
“We’re so excited to be home. It’s a massive occasion,” Duke said.
“I've received so many messages from fans saying how excited they are for the game and our return home tomorrow night.
“It's been a hard few years for the club, players, and fans. We didn't have that home feel for a couple of seasons so to have a permanent home again is a massive deal.
“For the fans, I couldn't think of a better game to open the stadium for us. I know it's going to be an amazing atmosphere and a great game on the pitch.”
Saturday’s clash with Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds also offers Wanderers fans a first glimpse at some of the international recruits lured to Australia by coach Markus Babbel, including Polish number 10 Radoslaw Majewski and Swiss midfield general Pirmin Schwegler.
“[Markus] Babbel has had his first full pre-season under his belt and he's brought in his own players,” Duke continued.
“We're going to be very exciting to watch this season. It's going to be a high-intensity, fast-paced match and that's what he expects of us.”