Tony Popovic’s appointment as head coach of the new Hyundai A-League club for western Sydney is proof the new club is heading in the right direction but a mountain of work awaits the former Socceroo.
Now the worst kept secret in football is finally out, we can all agree that “Poppa” is the man pretty much everyone wanted for the new club, from FFA to the club's burgeoning fan base.
From his days with Sydney United to playing in the English Premier League and then coaching with Crystal Palace, his history with football in the region and experience at the top of the game makes him the ideal choice.
His new fans will even forgive him his time with Sydney FC, as the rivalry between the two sides emerges before the new club even has a name.
But the step up from first-team coach to head coach is a big one at the best of times – never mind when there is entire squad to build from scratch.
In this respect, Popovic has a rather unique opportunity; this team, and indeed, the spirit of this club, will be his to define. From the players he signs to the backroom staff he chooses to help instigate his plan (assuming he’s given the free reign to manage the football side of things), the new club for western Sydney will be all Poppa.
It must be a massively daunting task – but also hugely exciting for one of Australian football’s finest talents. No wonder he was willing to give up his position at Palace. How many coaches get to create their own club?
But still, the clock is ticking. FFA need this club up and running almost within a month, with players needing to be preseason training in June. It’s dizzying to even think about all the work in front of Popovic.
After his unveiling today, there will be no time for him to take a breath until the start of the new A-League season sometime in early October.
Some of the ground work will have already been done, with a list of potential players ready and waiting – but that’s a long way from creating a cohesive squad and implementing a successful coaching strategy.
And, to be frank, it hardly sounds like a recipe for success. Winning teams are not created overnight, and in that respect just having his side ready to kick off against Sydney FC on the first day of the season will be an achievement in itself.
Critics of FFA decision's to start a new A-League franchise in such a short space of time will be quick to find fault in any area, from the the lack of name and colours to the boardroom appointments and media strategy.
And there is still so much to be done behind the scenes, from Popovic' backroom staff, to the club colours and name and home venue.
But despite the risks, there is still plenty of good will for the new western Sydney club, and the chance for neutrals to watch with interest how FFA handle their biggest gamble since the failed World Cup bid.
Tony Popovic returns to the A-League with an opportunity of exhilarating potential – capturing the imagination of one of the game’s great breeding grounds, and building a club that can offer a genuine pathway to some of the best young talent this country has to offer.
And that should be enough to get any football fan excited.