Perth hoping record crowd can push them to grand final glory – SBS – The World Game

Perth hoping record crowd can push them to grand final glory - SBS - The World Game

A-League grand final chasing record crowd as Optus Stadium switch proves a winner for fans

Its the first time the former-NSL powerhouses will host a home final in the West since 2003, eyeing their first championship of the A-League era.

FFA Head of Leagues Greg ORourke announced on Thursday an ambitious line up of pre-game entertainment, headed by international electronic dance outfit Ministry of Sound, with recently retired A-League greats to be acknowledged pre-game.

“Playing in front of 60-odd thousand Glory fans is going to be something to cherish. And hopefully it will be a great grand final and hopefully a great party on Sunday night.”

Read more The Hyundai A-League Grand Final is the biggest day in the competitions calendar and we have worked hard to give the fans an event that will be entertaining and memorable, said ORourke.

Perth Glory players say a pumping crowd will more than make up for the loss of their traditional home ground in Sunday's A-League grand final against Sydney FC.

Sydney talk up Grand Final mentality

Current sales suggest we can potentially expect a full house on Sunday afternoon and we are confident that this will be remembered as an amazing event in the history of Australian Football.

The previous biggest A-League grand final attendance was set in 2007 when an Archie Thompson-led Melbourne Victory defeated Adelaide United 6-0 in front of 55,436 fans at Docklands Stadium, while the record at Optus Stadium from any sport is 59,608 for last years AFL preliminary final between West Coast and Melbourne.

Glory legend Bobby Despotovski blasted FFAs decision, and club owner Tony Sage also expressed concern about his team losing some home ground advantage.

Meanwhile, fresh from missing out on a second Johnny Warren medal, veteran Spaniard Diego Castro is eager to lead his side to a first championship win for coach Tony Popovic, who lost three grand finals as head coach of Western Sydney Wanderers.

At 36 years of age, Castro should be on the decline, instead, the man dubbed El Maestro has produced arguably his best season yet, with the seven rounds he missed through injury earlier in the season seeing Wellington Phoenixs Roy Krishna pip the Glory playmaker for the A-Leagues top individual honour.

Hes a tremendous footballer, hes a tremendous leader of us. He leads with actions, and the way he plays and trains … you feel very confident going into a game with a player like that.

“I thrive when theres so many people there. Even if theyre not for us it wouldnt really bother me. For me Im happy to be playing at Optus.”

Hes such a hard working player as well. Its not just the skills and the tricks. People dont see the movement off the ball, the running, the defending. He keeps his body in tip-top shape.

The current record for an A-League grand final is 55,436 for Melbourne Victorys crushing 6-0 win over Adelaide United in the 2006/07 decider.

Castro will need to get past former Perth Glory player Brandon ONeill, in a star-studded Sydney FC midfield including former Johnny Warren medalist Milos Ninkovic, Ajax legend Siem De Jong and former Socceroos Alex Brosque and Josh Brillante.

Perth have built a formidable record at their home ground of HBF Park this season; winning 11, drawing two, and losing just two.

One player who wont be overwhelmed by the big occasion is veteran Glory defender Dino Djulbic, who fled war-torn Bosnia as a child, before settling in Perth aged 15.

The record for any A-League fixture is the 61,880 set for Sydneys 4-0 win over Western Sydney at ANZ Stadium in October 2016.

We left our home town and we were travelling around Bosnia for about three months while the war was on. Then we moved to Croatia, and then Slovenia, and then eventually we moved to Germany as refugees.

“From a players perspective, the biggest advantage was that we stayed in Perth,” Glory defender Jason Davidson said.

Read more Now 36, Djulbic wants to reward his adopted home town for the faith it and Popovic have shown him after a journeyman career that seemed to be heading towards retirement a few years ago.

Wilkinson played down the significance of his teams 6-1 dissection of Melbourne Victory in last weeks semi-final although he admitted the ruthless nature of the finishing had added a spring to the step of the teams attacking personnel.

Perth Glory and Sydney FC players dominated the PFA team of the season, with Perths Jason Davidson, Shane Lowry, Neil Kilkenny, Castro and Chris Ikonomidis all selected in the leagues Best XI, with Popovic named as coach and Reddy the reserve goalkeeper.

Sydneys Rhyan Grant and ONeill also earned starting berths, with Ninkovic and English sharpshooter Adam Le Fondre selected on the bench.

Both sides go into Sunday afternoons final with near full squads to choose from, with Alex Grant the only player unavailable, due to illness.

However, the former Socceroo pointed out his team comprise more players hardened by the experience of major matches, which he said counts for plenty in a one-off occasion.

With 50,000 tickets sold as of Wednesday night, Sundays A-League grand final between Perth Glory and Sydney FC is poised to break a number of crowd records.

Sydney FC boast an encouraging record in Perth, including a 2-1 win just before Christmas. That was followed by a 3-1 loss at the same NIB Stadium venue three weeks later.

Despite some criticism over the decision to play the grand final at Optus Stadium, the larger venue is proving invaluable for fans desperate to see their team in action. 

Sky Blues central defender Wilkinson has tipped his hat to Glorys achievement of dominating the regular season and booking home advantage for Sundays decider.

The largest ever A-League grand final crowd currently stands at 55,436 – set in 2007 when Melbourne Victory beat Adelaide United at Marvel Stadium.

While the biggest crowd overall in A-League history was set at ANZ Stadium in 2016 with 61,880 fans turning out. 

As it stands, Sundays decider could break both records with 5000 drop-in seats potentially set to be added to the 60,000-seat venue should they be required.

Wilkinson said a crowd forecast to challenge 60,000 at Optus Stadium held no fear, along with the travel factor.

“If we look like were going to blow past 60,000, then theyre on standby,” A-League boss Greg ORourke told the Herald.

Opened in late 2017, Glorys grand final at Optus Stadium could also break the current crowd record at the venue with 59,608 the number to beat, which was set by AFL side West Coast Eagles for a preliminary final last year. 

While the switch from HBF Park to Optus Stadium is set to ensure a mammoth crowd, Glory owner Tony Sage has voiced his concerns about the venue change.  

The FFA want to maximise revenue for themselves. They dont care what the clubs think, Sage was quoted by The West Australian.

Optus Stadium becomes a neutral ground. Thats the way I look at it. Thats the way the whole of the football department looks at it.

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