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May 16, 2012

Popovic out to win back west in A-League

Tony Popovic believes he help can win back Sydney's west by quickly assembling a competitive team with strong community ties as coach of the city's second A-League franchise.

The competition's worst-kept secret was confirmed on Thursday as local product Popovic was officially unveiled as the incoming western Sydney franchise's inaugural coach on a four-year deal.

The new club also installed Lyall Gorman as its inaugural executive chairman, stepping down from his role as A-League chief, as the club begins to run independently of Football Federation Australia (FFA).

Popovic said he was lured away from his job as assistant coach at Crystal Palace in England by the chance to start a club from scratch and admitted he faced a huge challenge in having a team ready for the 2012/13 season.

"But it's one that I can handle," Popovic said.

"We are short of time but we're confident we'll get a good team, a competitive team from the outset and one that's well prepared."

While he kept his cards close to his chest over potential player and staff targets, Popovic spoke of his desire to unite a region FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said had "rightly or wrongly felt disenfranchised or not engaged effectively by the new structure of the A-League".

Popovic's former club Sydney United is one of a host of former National Soccer League teams playing in the NSW Premier League and the coach said it was crucial to engage them at all levels.

"We have to make all of them feel a part of it," Popovic said.

"They must feel there's a pathway for their players to have an opportunity to get into the first team of western Sydney.

"There's kids now out there that will be thinking 'I can be a professional footballer' and they're dreams they probably had before but were distant.

"Now they can be a reality."

Popovic said it would be ideal if most of his playing group was home grown, but the club would proceed with recruitment carefully.

"Although we're tight for time, we won't just make rash decisions and just bring in a player for the sake of it," Popovic said.

"They must bring a skill-set that we're after ... and bring the core values that we believe in.

"We'll look at every player equally and, if we can fill the side with western Sydney players, that would be a bonus."

Popovic and Gorman have set a goal of having a squad of 20 players to begin training on June 25 ahead of the new season in October.

The team's name and colours are likely to be decided within the next fortnight while staff, player and board appointments will happen over the coming days, weeks and months.

If the enormity of the task ahead is daunting for Popovic, he's not showing it.

Despite entering his first head coaching role with a "blank piece of paper" in front of him, the highly-regarded former Socceroos defender feels he's ready.

"I'm very open - I'm not a closed book. I believe I can always learn," he said.

"Even (managers) I probably didn't like, I learned a lot from ... I've taken that all together and hopefully you'll see a playing style that the A-League will be proud of and everyone out west will too."

Popovic was also a reported target for Sydney FC, but denied he had held formal talks with his former club.

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