Shinji Ono has delivered the ultimate praise to Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic, and says he already considers the Wanderers the A-League champions
|By CARLY ADNO
Western Sydney Wanderers marquee star Shinji Ono says Tony Popovic is by far the best coach he has ever worked under.
Ono has played a central role in the Wanderers' fairytale debut season, which has already seen them win the Premiers' Plate.
The experienced 33-year-old played in Holland, Germany and his native Japan and has worked under various coaches, including Australia international coach Holger Osieck at J-League club Urawa Red Diamonds and both Bert van Marwijk and Ruud Gullit at Feyenoord.
But he said Popovic is the greatest.
"He's the one who's the best," Ono said on Tuesday.
"He's very honest... if my performance is good, he says good. If it was disappointing, then he says so.
"We trust him all the time and the players want to play for the head coach."
The Wanderers play reigning champions Brisbane in Friday's semi-final clash, but Ono believes Western Sydney are already the best team in the A-League.
He admits Australia's play-off system is foreign to him and believes the team that finishes the season on top should be crowned champions.
"After 27 games this is the best team," Ono said, referring to the Wanderers.
"But Australian people like more big games.
"I'm very excited, but it's the same as a usual game."
A groin injury has threatened Ono's participation in Friday's semi-final, but he says he has responded well to treatment and should be fit to play.
Coach Popovic insists he will not risk any play who is not fully fit.
"That's something we haven'y done all year," Popovic said.
"If the players are 100 percent we'll make them available.
"I'll certainly play a fit player over someone who's not quite right."
While Popovic is proud of his team, especially their 12-match unbeaten run, he wants more from them.
"We've just got to concentrate on what we've been doing all year," Popovic said.
"[Brisbane] come in with momentum, but we would argue that we've got 12 games of momentum and we'll take that into the game on Friday.
"If we perform the way we can, we're confident that we'll get through."