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Apr 9, 2013

Ono rates Popovic his best ever coach

Marquee man Shinji Ono says Western Sydney Wanderers' Tony Popovic is the best coach he's played under and believes his team should already be regarded A-League champions.

The first season franchise has already won the Premiers' Plate (minor premiership) and hosts Brisbane Roar in a semi-final at Parramatta Stadium on Friday.

Japanese playmaker Ono has tasted success on other continents winning the Japanese domestic competition, the Asian Champions League and UEFA Cup with different clubs.

He was part of Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds when current Socceroos coach Holger Osieck was in charge, but rated Popovic as his best coach.

"He (Popovic) is very honest," Ono said on Tuesday.

"If my performance is good, (he) says `good.'

"If my performance was disappointing, then he is honest.

"That's why we trust him all the time and the players want to play for the head coach."

While Popovic has kept a lid on the Wanderers' incredible first season performance, Ono revealed the coach had high ambitions from the start of their campaign.

"Our head coach told me when I came here `I want to win a championship this season,'" Ono said.

A believer in the traditional first past the post system, favoured by the vast majority of other countries, Ono believes the Wanderers should already be regarded as champions, but understood that Australia was different to most of the world.

"This is the system I know now and I want to get one more championship with this team," Ono said.

"This (the Wanderers) is the best team, but Australian people like more big games."

A-League boss Damien de Bohun understood Ono's preference, but emphasised Australian soccer had a long history of finals.

"The one thing we are really clear on is that we need to focus on the Australian sporting landscape," de Bohun told AAP.

"What they do in Europe is great and we can learn from that.

"The reality is the Australian public expect finals.

"People forget there have been finals in our code of football since the 1950s and 60s.

"From our perspective there is no question and no debate about the fact it (the grand final) is the most important day on the sporting calendar for football."

De Bohun believes Ono's success would make other Japanese players consider Australia and revealed a broadcasting deal to show the A-League in China had been done.

Ono declared himself 100 per cent fit to play on Friday following recent groin and hamstring issues.

Popovic said the handful of players that missed the final round clash with Newcastle all came through training on Tuesday but will be checked again after their Wednesday session.

"I think if they can get through tomorrow there's a good chance that all the players will be available," said Popovic, who won't risk anyone that isn't 100 per cent fit.

While defending champions Brisbane have hit form in recent weeks, Popovic said the Wanderers had gathered plenty of momentum of their own through their 12-match unbeaten run.

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