‘Something special’: the experience inside the Western Service Crew
Jeremy Waters had a day out he’ll never forget firmly entrenched in Western United’s active supporters group as the side played their first ever home game in the Hyundai A-League.
The Western Service Crew was in full voice during Saturday's 1-1 draw against Perth Glory, but the fanfare began long before any of the fans walked through the gates at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong.
“The atmosphere was really amazing inside the active group,” Waters said.
“Everyone was very excited to finally have a home game.
“We were chanting from really early on, before the game even started.
“We caught the train from Melbourne and people got on the train at different stops, then we all got off and we were singing all the way to the stadium.
“Everyone was excited and pumped even from the train trip there.”
A total of 6,088 fans flocked to GMHBA Stadium to see Western United in their inaugural competitive home game which ended 1-1 against Premiers Perth Glory.
“We felt it was the perfect stadium, we loved the area we were sitting – or standing – in,” Waters said.
“We thought it was a really good stadium for us, we got a lot of fans in there, it filled up quite nicely for our first game.”
As soon as he and the Western Service Crew were through the gates, the chants and songs echoed around the ground, ushering in the beginning of what Waters hopes will be a longstanding relationship between the club and its fans.
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“Seeing all the players walk out was surreal,” Waters said.
“Thinking ‘this is actually happening, we have been working all off-season to get this to happen’, then everyone came together and we had really good numbers in the group.
“During pre-season we didn’t have as many numbers as we hoped in the active group, then all of a sudden heaps of people rocked up on game day.
“From pre-season games, we sort of had the same boys every week, but then we got to game day and there were more than 100 people we hadn’t met who were happy to join in and get involved.
“Everyone got involved and picked up the vibe off each other... we started belting out chants all day.”
After a tense tussle between the sides in the first half, the crowd was begging for a moment which would raise the atmosphere to the next level.
That moment arrived early in the second half off the boot of United’s first ever signing Panagiotis Kone.
His long-range curler rippled the net and sent the Western Service Crew into dreamland.
“That was a screamer of a goal,” Waters said.
“The goal was scored up our end as well, and everyone went mental when that went in.
“It couldn’t have been a better first goal really, he’s our first ever signing and he played a good game last week, then came in this week and belted it into the top corner.
“Everyone was over the moon and went absolutely crazy in the active support.
“We saw it hit the back of the net and then everyone was chanting, singing and going mental.”
Glory eventually hit back through Kristian Popovic later in the game and honours were shared at full-time, continuing United’s unbeaten start to the season.
Looking ahead to Round 3 of Hyundai A-League action, another home game is on the cards for United: a derby clash with Melbourne City, which is set to spark a rivalry Waters hopes will be passionately contested throughout the coming years.
“We’re really looking forward to this weekend against City because it’s the first Melbourne Derby we’ve been involved in,” Waters said.
“I know a lot of people are keen to join in active support this weekend just to show it to the other Melbourne teams.
“From the results we’ve been getting everyone is excited, we haven’t been losing so that’s a start.
“Lots of people are excited for the season now, we’re in the top four which is a really big positive and it’s going to get a lot more people excited.”
The derby clash at GMHBA Stadium next Sunday provides Waters and the Western Service Crew a second consecutive crack at raising their collective voice, to show the league who they are and what they stand for, while helping to develop the identity of their growing club.
“We wanted from the start to make sure this active group is something special,” Waters said.
“Most football teams are looked at through their active support group. You look at the team and say ‘do they have good active support?’ If they don’t they’re looked at as a failure.
“We’ve been working with the club to make it somewhere everyone wants to come to, so we can make it feel like if you’re around as at least once you’ll want to come to a Western United game just to join in with us.”
Western United vs. Melbourne City kicks off on Sunday afternoon at GMHBA Stadium at 6:00pm AEDT.
Check out more images from Western United's first home game here
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