Analysis: Popovic’s legacy at Western Sydney Wanderers
Tony Popovic will always be a Western Sydney Wanderers legend – despite the bombshell he dropped announcing today (Sun) he was leaving the club a week before their season opener.
Popovic’s legacy is extraordinary. He is an extraordinary Australian at an extraordinary Aussie sporting success story.
To have won an Asian Champions League final barely two-and-a-half years after forming the club may never ever be achieved by any club in the region. Ever.
Simply put, it was an achievement of epic proportions. It put "Popa" very much on the map as a coach and he's been fending off big international offers ever since that famous day in Saudi Arabia in November 2014.
He also won an A-League Championship in his first season (top of the home and away table).
Numerous A-League finals and ACL campaigns adorned his time at Wanderland since they were formed in 2012.
He even took them to a Club World Cup in Africa (though that proved less successful though no less interesting for the players and coach).
What a five years it’s been.
The only pity is Popovic leaves without achieving one major goal – winning the Hyundai A-League Championship.
He’s been close on three occasions.
The irony of course is that the team he’s built this season are, according to many pundits including me, ready and able to finally win a Grand Final.
Popovic never won an FFA Cup Final either. The team are on track for a first ever final appearance too with a semi final later this month.
So, the team that Popa built – or more accurately rebuilt and refocused over time – could finally win on the final day of the season in 2018.
If they do win a grand final, it’ll be done without the man who built the club’s ethos and culture.
It’s a massive loss. But that’s football. Besides, Popa was never going to stay around forever.
It is sad he won’t coach the club at their fabulous new stadium, though I’ve no doubt he’ll be welcomed back at that venue (perhaps the Tony Popovic Stand at the new Wanderland in Parramatta could be his lasting legacy?)
But leaving on the eve of the season will raise eyebrows from their many fans, though I’m sure they’ll be proud their coach has been deemed good enough to enter the cauldron of Turkish football.
And if anyone is prepared for this bold new step, it’ll be Tony Popovic. The master planner, master motivator and potential future Socceroos coach, is set to test his undoubted potential as a coach.