What a turn-around! Just as I’d finished composing an early epitaph for Sydney’s upcoming season, some good news finally appears, and I’m obliged to re-think this preview.
Juninho Paulista has signed on as the club’s marquee player, in a fantastic result for Sydney, which certainly justifies the long and somewhat laborious process of finding a big-name signing. Juninho, coupled with the news that Mark Milligan will be staying put (for now, at least), the playing stocks aren’t as thin as they’d appeared just weeks ago.
Areas of concern remain, particularly left-back, but things are certainly looking brighter. Juninho looks to be a fantastic buy, a player capable both of setting and and scoring goals. With the addition of Tony Popovic (who has since been handed the captain’s armband), central defense is looking to be an area of strength for the team. He, along with Rudan and Milligan, will prove difficult to beat at the back this upcoming season.
Apart from the on-going issue concerning left-back, Sydney is again facing an injury crisis that threatens to be as bad or worse as that of last season.
After crowds dipped during season 2 of the A-League, hopefully Juninho’s acquisition – along with a more fan-pleasing style of play under new coach Branko Culina – will put more bums on seats. Melbourne Victory has obviously raised the bar in terms of attendance and it is up to the rest of the A-League clubs to lift their game accordingly. With 7 of its first 10 games at home, Sydney is certainly well placed to capitalize on the positive reaction to their marquee signing.