Many fans in Australian football doubted Sydney FC at the beginning of the season as a new look side took shape.
Following their heartbreak in last season’s semi-final against Melbourne Victory, Adrian Mierzejewski, Bobo and Jordy Buijs were just some of the key departures that left massive holes in the squad. The pressure was on the Sky Blues to bring in replacements that would keep the team towards the top of the table.
The appointment of Corica as manager also gave the doubters extra reason to think that the successful Sydney FC period of the last few years was over. With limited senior managerial experience, the Sky Blues were set to struggle.
Sydney FC’s displacement from Allianz Stadium and having to play at three different venues added to the belief that the Sky Blues would find it tough this season, with the Western Sydney Wanderers experiencing this over the last few years.
Injuries also had an impact during the campaign, with Trent Buhagiar, Siem de Jong and Ben Warland all experiencing long periods off the park, while short-term injuries and the unavailability of key player Rhyan Grant through international duty affected the squad in some weeks.
Despite all of this, the Sky Blues won their fourth A-League Championship, finished second in the league and were runners up in the FFA Cup.
Adam le Fondre and de Jong were brought in and both had a positive impact. Le Fondre scored 18 goals this season, while de Jong started to have a greater presence towards the business end of the campaign. Others like Daniel De Silva, Jacob Tratt and Warland came into the squad and performed their roles.
The appointment of Corica has turned out to be a masterstroke. He was an assistant to former manager Graham Arnold and carried over the culture of the club in order to retain the success. While he may not have the resume of other managers in the country, he has done well in his first season in charge of the Sky Blues.
The stadium issue turned out to be a blessing in disguise and in the end did not have a negative impact on the club. While the SCG had its dramas, fans flocked to Jubilee Stadium and Leichhardt Oval to witness their club at a suburban ground, with the match against the Melbourne Victory at Kogarah attracting a sell-out crowd.
While Corica deserves credit for Sydney’s success, the work of the staff off the field also needs to be congratulated. Assistant Ufuk Talay, who will depart to manage the Wellington Phoenix next season, contributed to the championship-winning season, as did Robert Stanton.
Another who must be mentioned is goalkeeper coach John Crawley. Having been at the club for multiple seasons now, Crawley has had a great impact on the club’s goalkeepers. Under his tutelage, Andrew Redmayne has improved massively and had arguably his best season in goals.
CEO Danny Townsend has contributed to the club’s off-field success, while many more who have not been mentioned also deserve plaudits.
In the 2010 Grand Final against Melbourne Victory, the Sky Blues were able to do it for captain Steve Corica, who missed the finals series with an injury. This time, they were able to win the championship for captain Alex Brosque, who announced his retirement.
Despite struggling early in the season, the Sky Blues were able to regroup and improved greatly. They finished off the campaign strongly, with the 6-1 semi-final victory over Melbourne Victory and Grand Final victory in Perth avenging the disappointing end to last season, where the team was prematurely eliminated from the finals after finishing on top of the table with a 14-point gap.
In doing so, Corica has shown that he is capable as a manager, while the Sky Blues have silenced their doubters.