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As a soy latte sipping, gluten-free muffin munching Sydney-sider, I am well aware of what makes Australia’s most populated city tick.

Sydney is the Texas of down under; a place where things are a little bigger, brasher and where time ticks away more quickly than in other parts of the nation.

Outside the busyness and razzmatazz, the city is something of a farce; with a patchwork quilt of band aid infrastructure solutions deceptively offered as long term fixes by untrustworthy politicians over the last quarter of a century. 

Any city where bike and footpath transport moves at a faster pace than gridlocked roads needs serious attention and if housing affordability is high on your list of priorities, go elsewhere!

The mayhem of the sprawling metropolis brings disdain from people from across the nation, those who visit and witness the chaos. By association, its successful football team isn’t too well liked either.    

Many believe Australian football’s rebranding in 2005-06 and Sydney FC’s triumph in season 1 was exactly what the powers at be had planned. With Dwight Yorke headlining amid considerable cynicism and scepticism around the competition, the A-League needed a glamorous winner. 

Adelaide United fans will seethe at that, knowing full well that the Reds were the most consistent team throughout that home and away season, before falling to the Central Coast Mariners in the semi-final. 

Some footballing friends of mine still hold onto the conspiracy theories of that first season and firmly believe that Sydney is given an institutional ‘leg up’ to this very day. 

I’ll leave that for others to judge, yet what is most certain is that the Sky Blues have built something impressive in Sydney, despite the ugliness of the city that it represents.

Three Premier’s Plates and a matching number of championships place the club second behind Melbourne Victory in terms of silverware in the A-League era. With just four seasons where semi-final football has failed to materialise, their consistency of performance has been impressive.

However, it has been far from plain sailing since that inaugural championship. Managerial stints by Terry Butcher (2006-07), Branko Culina (2007), John Kosmina (2007-09) and Ian Crook (2012) all brought different levels of angst.

The Sydney psyche is one of selfish excess and an expectation of success, in spite of any realities that may make that success unlikely. Those sensibilities were well and truly at play during the fan revolt of 2013-14, when Sydney fans had had well and truly enough of performances under Frank Farina.

In truth, Alessandro Del Peiro became an attractive façade at that time. Bling on the outside, glitzy and commercial, yet with fundamental football flaws lying elsewhere beneath the surface. 

In true ‘darkest hour before the dawn’ style, Sydney FC lured Graham Arnold to the club after a failed overseas jaunt and the rest as they say, is history. Just 20 losses in four A-League seasons defines the Arnold era, with 65 wins from 113 games (57%).

It also says a great deal about new manager Steve Corica.  

I held grave fears for the 45 year-old when he took the reins, despite his playing and employment history at the club. There appeared little chance that the sustained success would continue without interruption. 

The departures of Jordy Buijs, Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo left a chasm for Corica to fill. With Matt Simon, Luke Wilkshire and David Carney also gone, the rebuild was to be extensive.

To Corica’s credit, the re-invented Sydney FC has achieved more than I thought possible, despite 2018-19 presenting an array of challenges that may have buckled other clubs.

Englishman Adam Le Fondre has played the most significant role in that success with 14 goals in 21 matches, despite Sydney’s attacking inconsistency. 

Considering the negligible impact of Jop van der Linden, the long term injury to Siem de Jong and the unfortunate loss of Trent Buhagiar to injury, Corica has still been able to gel his squad and grind out results. 

Andrew Redmayne has been poised and consistent between the sticks, Rhyan Grant is now a walk up start at right back for the Socceroos, and he has been ably supported defensively by Brandon O’Neill and Michael Zullo.

All the while, Corica has relied on his Serbian wizard to continue to provide the class and polish. Milos Ninkovic started a little slowly yet with the finish line in sight, has rediscovered his best football at precisely the right time.

Corica should be well pleased with his achievements this season, yet in true managerial fashion he would not acknowledge that right now. 

From the end of the Arnold era, where change appeared to put the Sky Blues well and truly behind the eight ball, Corica now has a team within reach of silverware.

It is testament to Corica's vision and aptitude and provides opposition fans another very good reason to dislike Sydney FC.

Photo of Steve Corica by Kevin Airs of FTBL.com.au

Categories: Opinion | A-League

a-league, sydney fc, steve corica, milos ninkovic

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