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They were cobbled together in a matter of days, but the Western Sydney Wanderers have made for great following - not just according to Goal Australia's Jonathan Cook, either

GOAL.com Indonesia   OPINION
By
JONATHAN COOK


When the newsreader on the country's most-watched breakfast television show describes the achievements of Western Sydney Wanderers as one of the great Australian sports stories, you know the men in red and white hoops have hit the mark - a very high mark, at that.

The impressive statistics rolled out by Football Federation Australia regarding the A-League's increased viewing and improved attendances earlier in the season might have reached the avid, the committed and the diehards, but this was a message sent out to lounge rooms around the country.

There it was sandwiched between Ben Barba and Gary Ablett - a slice of Shinji Ono and a sprinkle of football magic.

Even those with not the even the remotest interest in the sport would have heard about Tony Popovic's men and their march to the top of the table in their first season.

They would have heard about the explosion in interest, the fanatic support and the tingling atmosphere out Parramatta way.

The question now is how long the Wanderers can continue to capture the attention of those dragged in by a great story as well as others who were so quickly enmeshed in that passionate fan base from the start.

Can this wonder story, which has had such a terrific start, be sustained beyond the 'novelty' period? Success in the finals series will certainly go some way towards continuing the momentum but even that is no guarantee of sustenance.

Surely, there have been too many examples of boom and bust clubs in Australian football to allow the Wanderers not to believe in their own hype?

Robbie Fowler's arrival for the now-defunct North Queensland Fury was a false dawn for the club.

North Queensland Fury's signing of Robbie Fowler was hailed as ground breaking before it led to a broken club. Gold Coast United could not fail with a star-studded cast and owner with enough cash to consider building a Titanic replica and a dinosaur park. Extinction soon followed.

The old National Soccer League gave us plenty of examples too - the most obvious being Northern Spirit, whose early attendances at North Sydney Oval spoke volumes for football's potential before the sleeping giant promptly went back to bed.

Even Perth Glory suffered from post-excitement blues when after attendances soared during the early golden days the novelty wore off and crowds slumped by more than 40 percent, despite the club continuing to succeed on the field, winning the last two National Soccer League titles in 2003 and 2004.

We are told that Western Sydney is a different beast and that football is part of the fabric of this particular area. We are reminded that there was extensive consultation in the west before this club even got off the ground.

Football fans everywhere should be heartened by the success so far, and supporters not aligned to another A-League club in the finals might like to throw their support behind Popovic's side.

Remember, this is not just a great football story. It is a genuine triumph for Australian sport.

A guy on the television told me so.

*Jonathan Cook would like to acknowledge the sad passing of Wanderers communications manager Rod Allen, a great guy and a terrific media man.

Jonathan Cook was football writer for The West Australian newspaper for 17 years. He covered Glory’s highs and lows for 15 seasons. He also reported on two World Cups, three Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games.

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