Finally… Sydney FC are moving in the right direction and appear to be stable and they deserve to be applauded for it.
It may have taken them a couple of coaches, a player storming out in a huff, only to be replaced by another high-profile Socceroo, but they’re getting there.
The re-signing of Alessandro Del Piero is the icing on the cake and it might just be the dawn of a new era of Sky Blue brilliance, and don’t they need it.
Throughout this season they have been schooled on how to be successful on and off the field by their two nearest rivals.
Central Coast have been showing them that on the pitch for the last couple of seasons. That Graham Arnold has done it with a fraction of the resources has quite frankly been embarrassing for Sydney’s football department.
So much money has been spent on acquiring talent from around the globe at Sydney FC and it has taken far too long to get it working.
Conversely, the Mariners, with the exception of Michael McGlinchey and Patrick Zwaanswijk are largely home-grown and have benefitted from many years as a sturdy combination, McGlinchey only making the short trip from New Zealand.
Then up jumped the Wanderers, their passionate fans sticking it to the Sydney support base and earning them the rep of Sydney’s most popular side throughout a season where the red and black have gone from strength to strength.
Fair play to Sydney and their fans for hanging tough, though. Together they have ridden through a tumultuous 2012 into a 2013 that is full of promise, and the latte set from the eastern suburbs are slowly returning to games at Allianz Arena in the once familiar style of a successful Sydney Roosters NRL season.
So easily though things could have gone the other way – and it all goes back to the moment they couldn’t get Graham Arnold, so they hastily appointed Ian Crook.
As much as the players say they liked him, even the media liked him, he wasn’t ready and wilted under the pressure that is applied like a blow-torch to Sydney FC by the local media when they falter.
Everything very nearly went to hell.
You had a World Cup Winner, one of the best 125 as recognised by FIFA to ever play the game and Sydney couldn’t buy a win.
Enter Frank Farina, back from obscurity and the former Brisbane Roar boss cracked the whip.
They did double sessions, they changed their formation and it took a while but they finally got results, with Del Piero and his teammates finally clicking – that it occurred one week after Ali Abbas "clicked it" at ADP probably says a lot. Sydney were against the Heart, just six weeks ago, so close but yet so far.
Since then the positive results have been coming, Sydney look to be a threat on the field. Big-name signings have also seen talented youngsters like Joel Chianese commit their futures to the club as well as coach Frank Farina. Now is the time to consolidate.
A few months ago I hammered Sydney FC management for not seeking continuity within the club, slamming them for the wholesale changes that have seen the revolving doors at their offices work overtime.
“The real issue is a lack of cohesion and the revolving door to the club,” were my words of choice when describing why they were bottom of the ladder, also suggesting that combinations between players in any team in any sport take time to gel, it’s always a matter of time when a new squad gets together.
Presently, the very combinations that were failing are working and working well. As for the off the pitch stuff, such as keeping a stable roster, it’s almost as if Tony Pignata read that column and agreed.
Sure it’s been rocky, but it seems Sydney may have turned a corner. The desire has clearly been there; witness the much-publicised spat between Del Piero and Abbas against Melbourne Heart to see the passion the players have, but they needed a coach and a clear football philosophy to guide them.
As much as Jason Culina's exit from the club still doesn’t sit well in some quarters, at the very least it set a standard that says the coach is going to do things his way. The line in the sand was drawn.
Hopefully that means we have seen the end of Sydney FC being the basket-case of the A-League. And the league needs the Sky Blues to be strong to guarantee further success. A strong Sydney FC equals stronger ticket sales.
It guarantees blockbuster matches like their battles with the Wanderers, Mariners, Victory and Jets will almost always be sell-outs or close to it and brings some fans who could at times be considered fair-weather back to the game as the club raise the bar on and off the pitch.
How strong are Sydney? A few weeks ago defensive midfielder Peter Triantis proclaimed his side the “dark-horses” of the competition. Sydney have won five, drawn two and lost three of their last ten, while in their last five they have won three, drawn one and lost one match (to Victory). Those statistics are a sign of a side on the up.
So is the way they are playing. They’re structured, the once leaky defence looks sound and will be bolstered by the addition of Lucas Neill. Perhaps even better though is that the side is moving forward with the ball and abandoning the negative style that hampered them early in the season.
Off the pitch things are also looking up, the debate over whether will ADP stay has now been answered, allowing the media pressure to relent somewhat on the Sky Blues as they chase the finals.
Sydney are still outsiders, but with the club looking stable for the first time in a long time and the team performing well on the pitch, a tilt at a championship is a real possibility.