Simon Hill: Welcome to Wanderland

All sorts of eulogies have been paid to the atmosphere at Wanderland over the last twelve months - all of them deserved. But rather than trot out the lines you've heard a hundred times already I thought I'd give you a couple of personal stories, tales that illustrate just how much of an impact you Wanderers supporters have made.

All sorts of eulogies have been paid to the atmosphere at Wanderland over the last twelve months - all of them deserved. But rather than trot out the lines you've heard a hundred times already I thought I'd give you a couple of personal stories, tales that illustrate just how much of an impact you Wanderers supporters have made.

My 14-year-old stepson loves all sports. He plays volleyball to an excellent level, has dabbled with both codes of rugby and right from the get-go of the Hyundai A-League he was a regular at Sydney FC games due to his father-s membership of the sky blues. It's probably fair to say, however, that while he enjoyed going to the SFS he could take it or leave it.

Late last season however, my wife decided to make the trip up the F3 for the big top of the table clash between the Mariners and the Wanderers at Bluetongue Stadium. She took her son along with her and - thanks to her connection with the game - she was able to secure seats in one of the boxes sat directly behind the travelling RBB.

I was commentating that particular match and arrived home quite late but my stepson was still awake and couldn't wait to share his experiences of singing along with the RBB - oh, and meeting "Dicko" as well!

That night, his allegiances changed because he'd literally been blown away with the noise the Wanderers supporters had made. I must say - as a football purist - I did try to dissuade him from swapping teams. For me, a club, once chosen, is for life - not just for Christmas. But he wasn't having any of it!

Secondly, like many British expats I have a circle of friends who are obsessed with the Premier League. Many of them happily get up in the middle of the night to watch their team play thousands of miles away - but the A-League? Nah, can't be bothered mate - that's the normal response, despite my badgering.

The Wanderers have changed all that.

Now, many tag along to games or at the very least are drawn into taking an interest because of the fabulous atmosphere that comes across, as clear as day on their televisions.

Football IS different to the other codes. In our sport fans are not spectators, they are active participants. It's one of the reasons I became a fan far too many years ago - kids in particular love the noise, colour, feeling of kinship and tribalism that football provides and once you're hooked you can't let go.

This year, the Wanderers fan base has grown further. With so many wanting to become Members, the club has sold out Memberships at around 16,000. That's fantastic news - when demand outstrips supply you know you are on to a good thing.

The Wanderers of course may not always have such a successful year on the park and some of those fans may drift away - that's only human nature. But the Wanderers have, very quickly, reached a critical mass so even failure (you'd hope) wouldn't lead to a dramatic reduction in those wearing red and black on a weekend.

Eventually the Wanderers should outgrow their current home which will present new challenges for the club and the game. Will Pirtek Stadium be expanded? Or will the club become the first of the A-League era to build and own its own ground?

My bet would be on the latter. Wanderers are on track to become one of the biggest sporting clubs in the country with its potential for growth truly phenomenal.

Much of the credit for that is down to you, the fans. So sing loud and sing proud this season - you make this stadium and the team you support, come alive. But more than that, you have made people like my stepson and my expat mate take a real interest in the A-League. The game here owes you a debt of gratitude - thank you!