Wanderers target championship next year
Western Sydney will extract a silver lining from their A-League grand final defeat in the form of renewed focus next season, says skipper Michael Beauchamp.
The Wanderers went down 2-0 to the Central Coast in front of over 40,000 fans at Allianz Stadium, ending an astonishing maiden season with their first loss since January 6 when, ironically, they went down to the Mariners by the same scoreline.
They entered the title decider on the back of a 13-game unbeaten streak - which included a record 10 consecutive wins - and as minor premiers having created Australian sporting history as the first start-up club to clinch silverware in their first year.
Accomplishments made even more remarkable when you factor in it was all achieved under a first-time head coach, 39-year-old Tony Popovic, who was in charge of a side that had been hurriedly thrown together just weeks before the season started.
But with the championship trophy the only thing to elude them, Beauchamp feels it now gives them a focus for next season.
"It definitely hurts and that's going to be a factor next season - we don't want to feel that again," he said on Monday.
"So come that first day of pre-season that's going to be our goal to be a part of the grand final again and be on the winning side."
The Wanderers had fielded several players on Sunday, including Aaron Mooy, Jerome Polenz, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi and Shannon Cole, who either weren't regular starters or had just comeback from injury.
Popovic conceded maybe they weren't "match hardened" and "weren't as sharp as they could have been".
He said he now had an appreciation of how the Mariners feel to have lost three grand finals in the last seven years.
"Losing a grand final is not easy," he said.
"I know the Mariners have done it three times and I can see now what that feeling is like. It's not nice.
"But you have to look at the positives.
"There's a lot of hunger in this club to be the best we can be and we feel we can be even better next year.
"Although things have gone well, there are a lot of things we've learned along the way.
"Everything is new for us and in every key area we want to do things a bit better.
"So come the pre-season we'll set some new goals."
Popovic acknowledged the tremendous supporter-base the club had.
"I have a lot of football experience overseas," he said.
"But it was something I'd never seen where after a big game like that and a defeat for your club, all your fans hang around for a good hour after the game.
"That's true support."
Meanwhile, several players are out of contract - including Dino Kresinger, Joey Gibbs, Tarek Elrich and Tahj Minniecon.
Popovic said he would asses things this week before deciding on their futures.
"Once we sit with the players this week ... we'll take the next step and have a look at which areas we want to improve on and whether we need to bring in some players or not."