'My missus was sick of hearing about it': How Wanderers fans celebrated homecoming

There are people hanging out of windows and children standing on restaurant tables as Western Sydney Wanderers fans make their way down Church Street.

On-lookers perched in the surrounding bars and cafes - many of them sporting Red and Black scarves and hats - can't resist but join in with the chorus of noise.

"We're from the streets of Western Sydney," is the rallying cry bouncing around one of the liveliest streets in Australia's most ethically diverse region.

For the first time since April 2016, it's game day in Parramatta.

It's time to go home

The Red and Black Bloc's pre-game march from Church Street to Parramatta Stadium has always been an indispensable part of the match day experience for Wanderers fans. 

But last Saturday's was extra special - a homecoming for the Western Sydney faithful after three seasons spent in the wilderness - while the stadium underwent a $360 million dollar refurbishment.  

And for inaugural fan and lifelong member, Chris, it was the first time it really hit him that the Wanderers were back at their spiritual home. 

"I had been so excited for it," he told www.aleague.com.au.

"My missus was sick of hearing how excited I was for it - and she's a member too.

"It was good to wake up and realise you could head down to Parramatta. The stadium is the jewel in the crown but the really good thing is just being back in Parramatta - the place that most people consider to be the centre of Western Sydney. Accessibility wise, it's perfect for everyone in the region, that's why it was so so successful."

Having outgrown The Woolpack and The Roxy in recent years, the Crown is the pre-match venue of choice for Wanderers fans to congregate and build excitement ahead of a home game.

These festivities, often more so than the spectacle of watching football, make up the essence of being a fan. But it was simply not possible for the Red and Black during their three seasons flitting between Spotless Stadium, ANZ Stadium and Campbelltown Stadium.

It was like the soul had been ripped from the club. 

"You felt like everything that could've went wrong did go wrong while we were there," said Chris, whose one-word summary of life outside of Parramatta Stadium is not suitable to be published. 

"Obviously I still went, and going to games so regularly you see familiar faces... a lot of those faces I hadn't seen while we were at Homebush. So it was nice to see those faces again and catch up with people who you hadn't seen for the last couple of years on Saturday."

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Western Sydney Wanderers fans celebrate their Parramatta homecoming on Saturday
A young Wanderer on Saturday

The match day experience inside of the stadium also returned on Saturday for the Wanderers in their 2-1 opening round victory over Central Coast Mariners - the same opposition for the club's inaugural match.

Bankwest Stadium features the steepest stands in the country, Australia's first safe-standing terrace and world-class facilities, underscoring club chairman Paul Lederer's belief that "no stone had been left unturned" in the venue's construction. 

There is just one step remaining: bring back the menacing atmosphere that made the Wanderland of old a cauldron.

"I think it's getting back to where it was and I'm sure it will get there."

Wanderers players celebrate the win with fans after the match